Statement of Concern: Treatment of Legal Observer, 18th July 2015
On Saturday, 18th of July, 2015, at approximately 12:43PM on the corner of little Bourke and Spring streets, in Melbourne, Australia a MALS Legal Observer had their mobile phone snatched out of their hands by a Victorian Police member from the Operations Response Unit (ORU) during counter-protests to the Reclaim Australia rally.
The Legal Observer was pushed and yelled at aggressively by the police member. The mobile phone was not returned when requested and was later found smashed a short distance away. When asked by a senior officer, the police member in question denied he had taken the phone.
Legal Observers play a critical and well recognised role in the protection of human rights. Legal Observers monitor, investigate, gather information regarding and report on human rights violations. Volunteer Legal Observers are recognised as Human Rights Defenders by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights1 and as such fall under the protection of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.2
This forced confiscation of the phone by police is unlawful and represents a concerning violation of the right to independently monitor police action. Any infringement on the ability to monitor or record the actions of public authorities during public protest events is of serious concern.
Melbourne Activist Legal Support will be submitting a formal complaint to Victoria Police regarding this incident and seeking assurances from Victoria Police regarding the police behaviour toward Legal Observers at future events.
Members of the public or journalists with information are asked to contact the Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre on [email protected] or (03) 9376 4355.
The series of images below capture the incident.