Australia Censured for Human Rights Record

The Australian Government today came under the strongest criticism from the prominent Human Rights Watch organisation. Human Rights Watch has released its first dedicated report on Australia, focusing attention on the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. The 94-page report roundly condemnes the Government’s actions during interception at sea of two vessles (SIEV 5 & SIEV 7) and also criticises the so called “Pacific Solution.”

In a series of harrowing revelations, Human Rights Watch interviewed a female asylum seeker from SIEV 5 regarding her husband’s treatment at the hand of Australian servicemen. She said:

“…they beat the sides and ribs of my husband with the electric sticks

The report also claims an Iranian from SIEV 7 had been “kicked and punched many times by an Australian officer.” The officer in question was not seen again by the witness suggesting he may have been taken off duty by superiors.

With regards to refugees and asylum seekers remanded in custody in Australia, Human Rights watch found that they “have no effective means of judicial or administrative review by which to challenge the decision to detain them.” Conditions in detention centres, including the three located in desert areas were found to be “extremely difficult.”

In conclusion, eleven recommendations are proffered to the Australian Government including calls for:

  • Cease pushing back intercepted asylum seekers
  • End detention under arbitrary and inhumane conditions.
  • Allow international and other impartial monitoring of detention centers.
  • Dismantle the hierarchy of refugee protection visas, in which temporary protection is used punitively.

Australia is urged to follow UNHCR guidelines, stating that asylum seekers should only be detained in exceptional circumstances, and allow the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to investigate detention conditions.

Other recommendations, not specifically aimed at the Australian Government, suggest UNHCR should better explain to refugees about potential delays to resettlement selection and that the governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea end all agreements with Australia that form the basis of the “Pacific Solution.”

Australia’s commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is clearly only lip service as they work at an international level to undermine long-established norms of refugee protection.

For more information see the full report from Human Rights Watch located:

For further comment see the recent article at Human Rights News located at: ustralia1210.htm

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