Dr Mohamed Haneef, an Indian national, was arrested at Brisbane airport on 2 July 2007 in connection with a failed London bomb plot. He was held for twelve days before being charged with providing support to a terrorist organisation. The charge was unsustainable and was quickly dropped. However, in the interim Dr Haneef's immigration visa was cancelled on character grounds - a decision which on review was found to be unlawful.

The arrest, detention, charge and subsequent release of Dr Mohamed Haneef represented the first time that a number of legislative provisions, introduced to respond to the threat of terrorism, were relied on in practice.

The case revealed significant deficiencies in those provisions and a marked disparity between their actual and intended operation. In particular, the case revealed:

  • problems with the operation and application of sections 3W, section 15AA and Part 1C of the Crimes Act - most notably the "dead time" provisions;

  • problems with the Criminal Code terrorist organisation offence provisions; and

  • problems with section 501 of the Migration Act and the intersection between migration law and criminal law.

To draw attention to these issues the Law Council issued multiple press releases on the case, which generated significant media attention. The Law Council followed up this media activity by writing to the Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Customs, Minister for Immigration and AFP Commissioner about the deficiencies in the law revealed by the case. In these letters the Law Council submitted a number of reform proposals.

On 13 March 2008 the Attorney-General announced the appointment of the Hon John Clarke QC to conduct an inquiry into the case of Dr Mohamed Haneef. The Law Council made a written submission to the Inquiry and appeared at a public hearing.

In December 2008, Mr Clarke reported to the Government and recommended a number of legislative and procedural changes.

The Law Council continues to advocate for the implementation of those recommendations.



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