With a number of young Muslim Australians fighting in conflicts in the Middle East and some joining the so called Islamic State IS with reports of atrocities, great concern has been raised at various levels of society in Australia.
With the debate on the impending National Security Bill, it is important to define foreign fighters and how the law will be applied to them.
The Prime Minister last month gave an oversimplified definition of foreign fighters and how they will be treated. He said that if you have a dual nationality and you go and join the Pakistani army and fight in a conflict with them then you are not breaking the law.
However if you go overseas, join and fight in a conflict with a designated terrorist organization, then you are breaking the law.
This definition poses more questions than it answers. Let us look as various scenarios with respect to foreign fighters and ask clarification from the Prime Minister:
Australians defence personnel are engaged in foreign wars, approved by the government and if they are involved in atrocities, I understand there are checks and balances within our defence system to call them to account.
Australian defence personnel work under the command of foreign officers and commit atrocities. Do we have check and balances for them.
A Dual national Australian/Pakistani while serving in the Pakistani army who commits atrocities against civilians. Will he/she be breaking Australian law.
Dual national Australian/Israeli while serving in the Israeli army is involved in killing of civilians in Palestine. Will he/she be breaking Australian law and called to account under the foreign fighters legislation. This is practically happening right now.
A dual citizen Lebanese/Australian happens to visit his parents in South Lebanon and while he is there, South Lebanon is invaded by the Israeli army and while the Lebanese are trying to defend themselves helped by Hezbollah militia, he decided to defend his parents and their home. Would he be breaking the Australian law?
Now these scenarios listed above are not theoretical. The are very much real. A dual Australian/Israeli national from Melbourne, while serving in the Israeli army as an officer was killed when Israel last invaded Lebanon. . There are a number of Australian/Israelis who were serving in the Israeli army when it invaded Gaza last month and some of them were injured. Heroes?
Then there are a number of Australian/Lebanese who joined the coalition armed by US and others who have been fighting the Syrian regime, some of them have been killed during the process. Terrorists?
What agitates the young Muslim activists is the double standards in foreign policies that are not based on justice. Its time that the new laws are clear cut and apply to all foreign fighters equally.
The law should be fair dinkum about foreign fighters. Let all Australians have the choice to be foreign fighters as they wish to be, after all it is their life at stake. Let them be prosecuted if they have committed atrocities.
Otherwise no Australians including dual nationals should be allowed to be foreign fighters unless they are serving in the Australian defence forces which has its own check and balances in prosecuting those who commit atrocities.