Australia’s human rights practices have once again been slammed in the most recent United Nations investigation. Hunger strikes, riots, stitched lips, and swallowed razors make up the tragic mosaic of Australian detention centers, and is reflected in the report, put together by Juan Mendez, the UN’s special rapporteur on abuse and torture.
Tensions are at a high, punctuated by the recent death of Reza Barati, reportedly beaten by guards in what began as a peaceful protest on Manus Island.
Australia’s breaches, under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which was signed by the government over 30 years ago, are noted by Mendez:
“The government of Australia, by failing to provide adequate detention conditions; end the practice of detention of children; and put a stop to the escalating violence and tension at the regional processing centre, has violated the right of the asylum seekers including children to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
Furthermore, the report condemns Australia’s amendments to the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation. The new changes allow the government to determine the status of asylum seekers at sea, and for arbitrary detention, without access to lawyers.
In response, Prime Minister Tony Abbott stated that, “Australians are sick of being lectured by the United Nations.”
Report of the Special Rapporteur below;
Ben Saul, the international law specialist representing detained refugees in Australia, some held now for over five years, told the Sydney Morning Herald that Australia’s responses to the UN are akin to, “giving the two-fingered salute to the world.”
Saul’s statements come in light of an appalling track record. In July 2013, the UN issued a ruling, with a 180-day deadline, calling the Australian government to release and compensate detained refugees for the psychological harm suffered under their indefinite detention. The Australian government gave no response for almost a year, before rejecting the ruling.
Whether the Australian government’s relations with the UN deteriorates further will be seen with the report to be delivered to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.