February 23, 2007

More coverage of Aboriginal’s legal battle

Posted at 11:55 am in Similar cases

Further coverage of the legal battle going on in Australia to stop testing on Aboriginal Remains in Britain.

The Australian

Source: AAP
Australia, UK in court over artefacts
* February 22, 2007

THE Australian and British governments today will be pitted against each other in a heavyweight court battle over whether scientists can conduct tests on Aboriginal remains.

The Australian Government yesterday announced it would seek to join the legal fight to stop researchers at London’s Natural History Museum testing the skulls and bones of 17 Tasmanian Aborigines.

It will apply to be part of a court battle beginning late today in the British High Court, when the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) applies to have a temporary ban on testing made permanent.

The TAC last week won an interim injunction in London to stop the museum testing the remains amid fears they could be damaged.

The British government had already flagged its intention to intervene in the case to ensure the testing goes ahead, TAC legal director Michael Mansell has said.

In a joint statement, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough yesterday said the Australian Government’s intervention would ensure its views were put to the court.

Mr Brough said Australia had already written to the museum and the British government but they had not agreed to stop the testing.

“It is unfortunate we have now been forced to take this step,” Mr Brough said.

The museum last November agreed to return the remains, which were removed by colonialists in the early 1800s.

But it has delayed the handover for the past three months so it could carry out scientific tests on them, including extracting DNA, removing parts of the bones and taking hair samples and X-rays.

The museum said any material removed during imaging, measurement and DNA analysis would be replaced so the items could be returned in a complete state.

The Australian

Source: AAP
Activist ‘not going home without bones’
* By Glenn Cordingley in London
* February 22, 2007

THE Tasmanian Aborigine spearheading a legal battle to stop scientists testing the remains of his ancestors in Britain today pledged he will not come back to Australia without them.

Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania chairman Clyde Mansell will give evidence to the High Court in London during the hearing set down for March 7-9.

“I won’t come home empty-handed,” Mr Mansell said after the case was adjourned in London today.

“I intend to set up a meeting with Tony Blair to stress the cultural importance of Aboriginal people over scientific buffoonery.”

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) has taken legal action against the British Natural History Museum to stop it drilling into the bones and skulls of the corpses, extracting teeth, and taking DNA and hair samples.

The (TAC) has won an injunction stopping further testing of the corpses until the court decides on making the ban permanent.

The museum argues the remains would provide rare data dating back to when the bodies were snatched from graves by colonialists in the 1800s.

But the TAC says it does not want its ancestors “butchered” and intends to bring the corpses back to Tasmania for traditional burials or cremations so “they can rest in peace”.

The Federal Government yesterday agreed to directly intervene in the case.

“Within 24 hours of the Australian Government joining in legal proceedings, the case to decide the fate of 17 Tasmanian Aboriginal dead has been adjourned,” TAC legal director Michael Mansell said in Hobart.

“This is good news. The involvement of the Australian Government, which has so far been tremendously supportive, means the British museum will have had a rethink.”

He said it was highly unlikely two national Governments would battle sensitive issue out in a public court.

“The adjournment provides the opportunity for the two Prime Ministers to sort this out politically,” Mr Mansell said.

“We were particularly disappointed to see the British Ministry getting so solidly behind the mad scientists of London.

“It appears the British Natural History Museum has tentacles reaching well into the Ministry of Culture and Art.

“We do not believe, however, that the influence of the museum extends to Tony Blair. It is at that level that the museum can be forced to stop its degrading and sick testing of our dead, and be forced to surrender its hold over Aboriginal remains.”

Sunday Tasmanian

Call for Canberra on lawsuit
February 18, 2007 12:00am

THE Federal Government needs to join the legal proceedings to stop scientists in London conducting scientific tests on Aboriginal remains, says Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre legal director Michael Mansell.

Mr Mansell made the call yesterday after receiving news the British Government planned to intervene in the case.

“We are concerned the British Government has intervened in proceedings within a day of the Australian Government backing the Aboriginal case,” he said.

Last week the Federal Government agreed to help fund a court case by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre to protect the remains of 17 Tasmanian Aborigines in London.

“We fear the British intervention will promote the view that the deal struck between prime ministers (John) Howard and (Tony) Blair did not preclude testing, just what the scientists want to hear,” Mr Mansell said.

The British Natural History Museum has agreed to return the remains of the 17 Tasmanian Aborigines but it first wants to do scientific tests.

Last week, lawyers for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre won an injunction in Britain’s High Court to halt the tests pending a further court hearing this week.

Mr Mansell said despite the Federal Government’s turnaround last week in agreeing to help fund the court action, it had always favoured repatriation without invasive tests.

But at every point in the negotiations the Natural History Museum had ignored the Government’s position.

“The museum position is arrogant but powerful — it holds the remains of our dead and treats them as just bones, not people,” he said.

Mr Mansell said intervention would allow the Federal Government to inform the court of its position and the reasons for that position.

He believes the court would appreciate direct information about the Federal Government’s opposition to testing before repatriation.

A final hearing is scheduled for the High Court in London on Thursday.

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