Information gained from torture could be used in Australian courts
Information gained from torture could be used in Australian courts

Admissions from torture could be used in Australian courts

EVIDENCE obtained by foreign governments through "indirect" torture methods could potentially be used in Australian terrorism prosecutions, under new counter-terrorism laws passed by parliament on Wednesday.

The provision, part of the Abbott government's contentious "foreign fighters" legislation, was one of many that engage, and may breach, Australia's international human rights obligations.

After heated debate in the Senate, the laws passed with support from Labor, the Palmer United Party and crossbench senators Ricky Muir, Bob Day and John Madigan.

Late on Tuesday, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights tabled its report on the bill, highlighting the use of evidence given to Australian authorities by foreign governments.

While the government had taken on the concerns of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security, the full concerns of the human rights committee were not reflected in the final bill.

Specifically, a statement tabled by human rights committee chairman, Liberal Senator Dean Smith, said the bill allowed for the "exclusion of foreign evidence that is obtained directly as a result of torture".

However, the statement went on to say the committee "suggested" that foreign evidence also gained "indirectly from torture" should also be excluded.

While the bill, as passed, included measures to allow a court not to hear such evidence, and that the prosecution must prove such information was not gained through "direct" torture, it did not extend to, nor define, "indirect" means of torture by foreign governments.

The committee found that all evidence obtained through torture "whether directly or indirectly" should be excluded in line with the Convention Against Torture.

"The prohibition against the use of evidence obtained as a result of torture is absolute and therefore may not be subject to limitation," the report reads.

Despite a specific recommendation to ensure all evidence obtained "directly or indirectly" through torture should be excluded, the bill did not specify, and stayed with the original term of "direct torture", a term not defined under the international convention.

Greens Senator Penny Wright said the "government's poor process" meant the Senate did not have time to explore the "ramifications of every aspect of the bill".

"Many of the full implications of this bill won't be understood until after it has become law," she said.

"Certainly the Greens condemn torture in any form and would want all legislation passed by the parliament to be unequivocal about this."

Comment was sought from the Attorney-General's department before filing.