Overnight Australia was slammed by the UN Human Rights Committee for its “chronic non-compliance” with, and disengagement from, that Committee’s work. Australia’s record on human rights was found lacking as part of the Committee’s review into Australia’s protection of civil and political rights.
Professor Yuval Shany, Vice Chair of the Committee, said Australia’s track record was “incredible” for a country that claims to be a leading voice on human rights.
Mr Shany directly contradicted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s previous statement on Australia’s engagement with the UN, when he said Australia “has very little to be proud of.” He described Australia’s record as one of “chronic non-compliance” with the Committee’s findings, and said its compliance rate was so low it was “completely off the charts”.
Amy Frew, a lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre said the Committee was clearly dismayed at Australia’s disdain for the Committee’s expertise and processes.
“Today the UN gave Australia a grade of E - and that’s not an E for effort. The condemnation shows how far we have strayed from the promises we made to uphold the civil and political rights of Australians and people in our care,” said Ms Frew.
This grilling comes a day after the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) made an extraordinary statement that the conditions on Manus Island amount to an “imminent humanitarian crisis” and a "looming humanitarian emergency". After inspecting the island in September, the UNHCR is calling on Australia to immediately evacuate the men from PNG.
The Manus Island detention centre is due to close on 31 October 2017, but the hundreds of men still living there have nowhere safe to go. In recent months essential services such as water and electricity have been cut in an attempt to force the men out of the centre and into the community, However, the men are fearful for their safety in PNG, where there have been dozens of violent attacks on the men outside the detention centre.
“Australia is increasingly ignoring UN advice across the board, but it can’t continue with its head in the sand approach given the rising chorus of UN experts calling out the grave harm its deterrence regime inflicts on men, women and children seeking asylum. The fact is, Australia is continuing a regime that is deliberately cruel. Men who have been warehoused in an abusive limbo for more than four years are now being forced into even greater danger,” said Ms Frew.
The comments also come just two days after Australia was elected to the UN Human Rights Council. As a Council member, Australia is expected to maintain the highest standards in the protection and promotion of human rights and to fully cooperate with UN processes.
“In the week that Australia was elected to the Human Rights Council, it is already falling at the first hurdle. The Council seat is an opportunity for Australia to improve its track record at home and abroad, which must begin with proper cooperation with the UN. Australia also has no choice but to take immediate action to solve the humanitarian crisis of its own making. As a first step it must immediately evacuate all men from PNG to safety in Australia.” said Ms Frew.
For interviews or more information, please contact:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, HRLC: +61 (0) 419 100 519