Tuesday, April 04, 2006

World: how to test security laws with mental illness

News report overnight regarding the 14 people recently arrested under Australia’s new terrorism laws.

Apparently, two of those fourteen have mental illnesses, and another two are on anti-depressants. At least one of them hears voices.

Are the new laws that draconian that they punish mental instability?
Are the intelligence agencies over-keen to exercise their new-found powers – or are they over-keen to demonstrate their commitment to the government line?
Is the existing framework for recognising and treating mental illness inadequate to identify and treat these people before they are taken as trophies by other government agencies?

Other news dealt with the plight of the longest-serving immigration detainee – a Bangladeshi man who has been incarcerated for six and a half years. Scant days after release of a scathing Ombudsman’s report, he’s been released into the community. You guessed it, mental illness again. Community release wouldn’t seem to help, though, since he’s more recently been consigned to a hospital for his illness (over six years late), and won’t be going anywhere. Of course, if Immigration were doing their job, this man would have been treated rather than incarcerated. But privatisation of detention services has certainly made that harder, if not impossible without outside advocacy, which is what happened here. (see yesterday’s entry regarding privatisation.)

As mentioned before, there have been significant failure at a State level [throughout Australia] in the treatment of mental illness.
Regardless, mental illness is the perfect test for the operation of detention laws at the margin. If they don’t recognise and deal with mental illness as such, then they are inadequate.

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