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February 2003   

Interview: Agenda 2003
ACTU secretary Greg Combet looks at the year ahead and how a union movement can keep the focus on the workplace at a time of global crisis.

Peace: The Colour Purple
Local communities across Australia are taking stands against war by displaying purple banners. Jim Marr visits one.

Industrial: Long, Hot Summer
As Workers Online took its annual break, the world kept turning � at an increasingly alarming velocity.

Solidarity: Workers Against War
Joann Wypijewski reports on how union locals in the USA are fighting the hounds of war at home.

Security: Howard And The Hoodlums
With all the talk of terror, the Howard Government�s Achilles heel is its tolerance of Flags of Convenience shipping , writes Rowan Cahill

International: Industrial Warfare
Scottish freight train drivers have already acted to disrupt the war effort in the UK with crews of four freight trains carrying war supplies to ports walking off the job, writes Andrew Casey

History: Unions and the Vietnam War
The Vietnam experience steered some unions towards social activism for the first time. Unions are today key players in the anti-war movement, writes Tony Duras.

Review: Eight Miles to Mowtown
Mark Hebblewhites looks at two summer movies that tap into different sounds of American culture - white boy rap and motown blues.

Poetry: Return To Sender
Resident bard Divd Peetz discovers that Elvis has become the latest shock recruit to the peace cause.

Satire: CIA Recruits New Intake of Future Enemies
CIA Director George Tenet announced today that the agency has begun recruiting future enemies for the year 2014.


The Soapbox
Getting On with The Job
Premier Bob Carr chose Trades Hall as the venue to launch Labor's IR policy for the upcoming state election.

Justice in Bogota
Sydney lawyer Ian Latham knows how to pick them. He�s gone straight from the Cole Royal Commission to justice Colombian-style.

The Locker Room
Heart Of Darkness
There is a school of thought that there is, in fact, only one World Cup - and it doesn�t involve cricket, writes Phil Doyle.

Danger Mouse
John Howard's politics have trapped him into supporting an unpopular war. He is in political trouble, Leonie Bronstein argues.


A Call To Arms
Workers Online returns from our summer break to face a world on the brink, the structures of global cooperation being crushed by the iron will of the earth�s last remaining superpower.


 The Cuffe Link � Taxpayers Cough Up

 Carr: Secret Lib Plan to Slash Public Sector

 Abbott Comes Out Swinging

 Thanks a Million: Cole�s Lawyers Clean-up

 Corrigan Dogs On Jobs Promise

 Gnomes Fess Up � Unionism Best For All

 Owens Survives 30-Year Ban

 Ribs and Rumps Something for Government to Chew On

 Badges of Honour

 Guards Rail Against Assaults

 Workers Online Scoops Global Prize

 Currawong Must Pay It�s Way

 Let�s Get Real! 2nd Australasian Organising Conference

 Guard Knocked Out in Villawood Escape

 Activists Notebook

 Bouquets and Brickbats
 War Talk
 A Tale of Two Malls
 Talk Back Tom
 On The Beach
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Justice in Bogota

Sydney lawyer Ian Latham knows how to pick them. He�s gone straight from the Cole Royal Commission to justice Colombian-style.


Bogot� is the capital of Columbia at the northern tip of South America. It lies kilometres above the sea in a country that is larger than Spain and France combined and has a population almost twice the size of Australia. Were it not for a civil war and a culture of kidnapping and violence, it would probably be a wealthy country and a sought after tourist destination. It has vast reserves of oil and a strong agricultural sector. It stretches from the Andes to two oceans. Its food is fascinating and its pre-Columbian art is extraordinary.

These benefits are largely of academic value alone. The tourist trade is tiny and many governments strongly advise their citizens not to travel here. For years leftist rebels have been fighting against the government and paramilitary forces. The government is backed by the United States and a massive military. Some fear that the war, which is fuelled by the massive cocaine trade, may last forever.

The war that they are fighting permeates everything in Bogot�. The military are everywhere. You are constantly searched. Meanwhile the killings and the kidnappings continue. While the US mourns the death of the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia, murders in the country of the same name are so commonplace that they hardly register. Kidnappings are estimated at the staggering figure of 3000 per year.

As a visitor the impact is immediate. For my first few days, my hands and feet poured with sweat despite the cold of the mountain climate. While I am no longer scared, I am still apprehensive. I long for my suburban life in Sydney and my family. And I am relatively safe. Hours from here sleep three Irishmen who are by no means safe. Charged with training the rebels, they have been in jail for over a year waiting for their case to come to a conclusion. The case is not big news here and to the extent that the Columbians know about it, most think the three guilty. Government officials have loudly proclaimed their guilt in advance of the verdict.

I am in Bogot� with a dozen or so Irish, American, Australian and English politicians, lawyers and journalists. We are here to observe the trial and, at least in terms of the observers, to try to ensure that the trial is fair. I�m not Irish. I have never been to Ireland. But I am lawyer and lawyers should believe that people should not be convicted before their guilt is determined by a fair trial.

While it is always dangerous to view another system through the prism of your own world and while the case is yet to conclude; it is difficult not to have concerns about the fairness of this trial. While Australian courts rely upon direct evidence of what people saw or heard, there seems to be no substantial restriction on what evidence is put before the court. Hearsay evidence, which would be rejected in Australia because of its unreliability and its failure to prove what it alleges, is regularly put before the Court. Much of the evidence is simply the opinion of the witnesses and proves nothing. Much of it is simply irrelevant. We are hampered by the lack of a Spanish interpreter, lack of ready access to transcript and witness documents. Our constraints are nothing compared to those of the defence lawyers. Lawyers are regularly killed in Columbia and one of the defence lawyers has gone into hiding overseas after his life was threatened.

I don�t hold great ambitions in this case. My presence is unlikely to change anything, but this trip has changed me. It has made me think again about the importance of the rights that exist in Australia, the rights to a presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial and to legal representation. Yet even these rights are under threat in Australia and few are willing to stand up for them. For the Australian Government, like other governments across the world, is saying that the rights of those accused of acts of terrorism, or even of knowledge of terrorism, should have many of these rights taken away. As I write, there are Australians in jail in Cuba who have not been presumed innocent, who have not been given a fair trial or legal representation. The Australian Government appears unfussed.

Lawyers and others have duty to stand up and be counted. For if this war on terror is a war to protect our freedom as our leaders say, it must include protecting those freedoms that I have written about; whether they be for the best or worst of us, for the most trivial or heinous of crimes and for the richest or the poorest of people and of countries.


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