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AMAN Raises Concerns Over Recent Counterterrorism Policing in Sydney

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The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN) has recently issued a comprehensive briefing note addressing serious concerns regarding the counterterrorism policing events in Sydney. This note underscores inconsistencies in policing standards and highlights the urgent need for fair and humane treatment of individuals, particularly those with mental illness or disabilities.

Inconsistent Policing Standards

One of the core issues raised by AMAN is the stark difference in how the New South Wales (NSW) police handle cases involving mental illness. For example, in the Botany petrol bomb incident, the police did not involve the counterterrorism unit despite clear indications of a politically motivated attack. Contrarily, in the Wakely stabbing incident, police quickly designated the event as terrorism without a comprehensive mental health assessment of the attacker​​.

This inconsistent approach is particularly troubling when considering the severe penalties associated with terrorism charges, which can include life imprisonment. AMAN’s briefing note points out that the terrorist act charges have only been used once in Australian history in relation to a non-Muslim person and never for a non-Muslim minor​​.

The Impact of Mental Illness on Policing Decisions

The briefing note also delves into how mental illness is treated differently depending on the individual’s background. In several cases involving non-Muslim individuals with mental health issues, the charges were often less severe and included considerations for their mental health. Conversely, Muslim individuals with similar or even more severe mental health issues faced harsh terrorism charges​​.

For instance, the Bondi incident involving a white adult male with schizophrenia was quickly ruled out as terrorism, whereas the Wakely incident involving a 16-year-old Arab Muslim boy with a history of mental health concerns was promptly classified as terrorism​​.

The Call for Fair Treatment and Accountability

AMAN calls for a principled and consistent approach to counterterrorism policing, emphasizing the need for fairness in the investigation process, labelling, and charges laid. The organisation argues that mental health and young age should be significant factors in determining the appropriate legal response and punishment, rather than defaulting to severe terrorism charges​​.

Broader Implications for the Muslim Community

The briefing note highlights how the current approach by the NSW police and the broader Australian legal system can exacerbate feelings of alienation and discrimination within the Muslim community. By disproportionately targeting Muslims with terrorism charges and overlooking similar actions by non-Muslims, the system undermines trust and increases the sense of injustice among Australian Muslims​​.

AMAN’s Recommendations

AMAN recommends several measures to address these issues:

  1. Review and Reform Policing Standards: Establish clear and consistent guidelines for when and how terrorism charges should be applied, ensuring mental health assessments are integral to the decision-making process.
  2. Protect Human Rights: Ensure that counterterrorism measures respect the human rights of all individuals, particularly vulnerable groups such as those with mental health issues or disabilities.
  3. Community Engagement: Foster better relationships between the police and the Muslim community to build trust and cooperation.
  4. Education and Training: Provide comprehensive training for police officers on cultural sensitivity and the appropriate handling of cases involving mental health issues.

The recent counterterrorism policing events in Sydney reveal critical flaws in how such cases are handled, particularly concerning individuals with mental health issues. AMAN’s detailed briefing note calls for urgent reforms to ensure fair and humane treatment for all, highlighting the need for consistency, transparency, and respect for human rights. For more information and to support our advocacy efforts, please visit our website or contact us directly.