Human rights lawyers encourage NSW Parliament to ’act without delay’ on LGBT justice initiative

The Standing Committee on Social Issues has recommended a judicial inquiry into hate crimes

Human rights lawyers encourage NSW Parliament to ’act without delay’ on LGBT justice initiative

The Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) group has encouraged the NSW Parliament to “act without delay” on the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Social Issues in relation to the gay and transgender hate crimes that occurred between 1970 and 2010.

In an interim report published in February 2019, the committee pointed out that bias continued to affect the way the LGBT community is treated.

“Even with legislative change following the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1984, bias attitudes were still being perpetuated within the broader community with a legacy that is still keenly experienced today,” the Standing Committee on Social Issues said.

The committee also called for NSW police “to ensure that all its interactions with the public, including the LGBTIQ community, are conducted with both respect and professionalism.”

The final report is expected to be tabled in May. According to The Australian, one recommendation to be made by the committee is that the Berejiklian government should conduct a judicial inquiry into 88 potentially homophobic murders. Amongst these cases was the high-profile murder of Scott Johnson in 1988; after being ruled a suicide for decades, it was revealed in 2017 to have been the result of a gay hate crime.

Twenty-three of these cases remain unsolved.

“If, as reported, the final report rightly recommends a judicial commission of inquiry with full investigative powers to look into the responses of the NSW justice system during the 1970s, 80s, 90s and 2000s, ALHR will be fully supportive of this as an initial move to correct a time when gays, lesbians and transgender people were targeted for killings, bashings and robberies,” ALHR President Kerry Weste said.

She said that the final report “will mark an important but sad point in the LGBT community’s journey towards truth and justice.”

“For too long, the LGBT community has suffered brutal and violent human rights violations at the hands of groups within society, and yet has not benefited from appropriate responses from police and justice agencies,” Weste said. “The NSW Parliament must act without delay to implement the findings and recommendations of the final report, and help the LGBT community of NSW speak its truth.”

ALHR LGBT co-chair Georgia Burke said that the final report needs to deliver a “powerful message to the LGBT community that our government is finally listening,” especially since the local LGBT community remains “vulnerable to hate speech, vilification and violence.”

“Human rights law also imposes an obligation on countries to provide remedies and reparation for the victims of human rights violations. But our community has not had such protections,” she said. “ALHR hopes that the final report will serve to establish the framework for a long overdue commitment to truth-telling in the LGBT space. The LGBT community deserves to have their internationally-recognised human rights to life, equality before the law, the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, freedom of expression and freedom from torture protected.”

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