National security wrap

The beat

Anti-maskers clash with police in Victoria

In just one day last week, Victoria Police fined 170 people for breaking the state’s lockdown rules. Among them were 18 people who weren’t wearing masks, some of whom refused to accept masks offered by officers. The ‘sovereign citizens’ movement has been growing in Australia since the start of the pandemic, and more people have felt emboldened to disregard authorities’ orders. In response, Premier Daniel Andrews has given police extraordinary powers to enforce tougher regulations as coronavirus cases and deaths rise in Victoria.

Report says US police are guilty of human rights abuses

Amnesty International has accused US law enforcement authorities of committing mass human rights violations during the Black Lives Matter protests that followed George Floyd’s death. The Amnesty report documents 125 instances of excessive use of force by police and security personnel across 40 states and in Washington DC. The report recommends that authorities at all levels address ‘systemic racism and systemic use of force’ and change their approach to policing protests to comply with international human rights law.

CT scan

Australia won’t repatriate the partners and children of IS fighters

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has said that Australia is not in a position to bring back the wives and children of Australians who fought with the Islamic State terror group. At the AUSMIN talks with US officials last week, the minister said that, given the pressure Australia was under due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it would not be able to dedicate the necessary resources to ‘re-integrate, to monitor, to secure, and to deradicalise people who are brought home’. This stands in contrast to calls from the US for coalition members to bring foreign fighters home to be prosecuted or rehabilitated and from organisations such as the International Crisis Group to repatriate women and children on moral grounds.

German special forces unit disbanded over extremist activity

Germany’s defence ministry has disbanded the 2nd Company of its Special Forces Command after an investigation revealed far-right views and activity within the group. Germany’s Military Counterintelligence Service is investigating around 600 cases of suspected far-right extremism, 20 of which involve members of Germany’s special forces. Experts believe the case indicates ‘how deeply rooted right-wing extremism could be within the German army’.


US Border Patrol raids humanitarian aid camp

US Border Patrol agents have conducted a raid on a humanitarian aid camp run by faith-based organisation No More Deaths in southern Arizona. This is the second such raid in two years, signalling the agency will continue its hardline approach to humanitarian aid workers assisting undocumented immigrants and refugees. No More Deaths has claimed that the raid was retaliation for its publication of agency emails about a 2017 raid on the same camp.

North Korean defector returns

A defector has returned to North Korea from South Korea, swimming from Incheon through a drain under barbed-wire fences. The defector fled South Korea, where he had been living since 2017, after being accused of sexual assault. North Korea blamed the man for introducing coronavirus into the country, having previously claimed it had no cases. At least 11 North Korean defectors have returned in the past five years.

First responder

UN convention on worst forms of child labour ratified

All 187 member states of the UN International Labour Organization have ratified Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour. ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said universal ratification of the convention ensures that ‘all children now have legal protection against the worst forms of child labour’. The convention prohibits the use of children under the age of 18 in armed conflict, prostitution, pornography, illicit activities and hazardous work.

Queensland borders shut again

The Queensland government announced that it will reclose its borders with New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory after the state reported a confirmed Covid-19 case. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the government could not risk a new outbreak of the virus and emphasised the need for decisive action. The state has increased the maximum fine for providing false or misleading information on border declarations to $13,345.