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Uniting church condemns visa cancellation as undermining legal system

Uniting Church News
UnitingJustice says that by revoking the visa of Dr Mohammed Haneef the Howard Government is using the Migration Act to undermine the legal system.

Director of UnitingJustice, the justice agency of the Uniting Church in Australia’s National Assembly, Rev. Elenie Poulos, said, “We are outraged at the abuse of Ministerial power shown by this decision. It is hard to believe that the Minister’s action is not related to the Court’s decision to grant bail to Dr Haneef.

“A person’s guilt or innocence is a matter for the courts not the Minister. It is naïve to believe that this action will not prejudice Dr Haneef’s right to a fair trial. It looks as though the Government has convicted him, even though the law has not,” said Rev. Poulos.

“We are also concerned about his detention in Villawood which is so far from his legal team in Brisbane. It appears that the Government intends to make it as hard as possible for Dr Haneef to access all the legal support he is entitled to.

“We do not condone terrorism and believe that terrorists should be brought to justice. But justice is not served when the right to a fair trial is jeopardised,” said Rev. Poulos

The Uniting Church has long held concerns about the power of Ministerial Discretion under the Migration Act. While it is important that the system has enough flexibility to deal with unusual cases, as it currently stands the Minister can make decisions based solely on his or her own sense of what is reasonable and the decision is non-reviewable.

“It is inconsistent with a healthy, functioning democracy that such power should be held by one individual,” said Rev. Poulos. “This decision by the Minister to use this power in this case is a perfect example of why this power must be checked.”

“Australia’s national interest is not served by undermining our legal system. Nor is it in the national interest that Government Ministers declare the guilt or innocence of people before the courts have a chance to do their work.

“Mohammed Haneef deserves to be treated like any other person in this country – innocent until proven guilty by a fair trial.

“We call on both major parties to reassess their position on this matter,” said Rev. Poulos.

Photo : Uniting Church News