Australian lawyer wins prestigious international human rights award

Australian lawyer wins prestigious international human rights award

The Australian Government’s punitive treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum has again received international condemnation with the former Prime Minister of Canada describing Australia’s offshore detention centres as ‘horrendous’.

Overnight the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada and chair of the Award jury, announced Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy with the Human Rights Law Centre, as a winner of the inaugural Global Pluralism Award for his work defending the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum.

“The asylum seeker issue in Australia points to a staggering global crisis. By protecting asylum seekers from horrendous detention and shifting the public conversation from one of deterrence to welcome, Daniel Webb is paving a way for other global leaders. The world is dealing with the largest number of global refugees since the Second World War. Asylum seekers arriving at shorelines and borders – at times in considerable distress – must be dealt with in a way that respects their humanity,” said Rt. Hon. Clark.

An international jury selected Mr Webb from a group of over 200 nominations from 43 countries.

Mr Webb said that while he was honoured to receive the award, the recognition highlighted that the Australian Government’s policies are profoundly harmful and fundamentally flawed.

“Men are dying on Manus. Unaccompanied children, infants and pregnant women have been indefinitely imprisoned on Nauru. Families have been permanently ripped apart purely because they arrived and sought safety on different dates. On this issue, we have completely lost our moral compass as a nation. Hopefully this international recognition is a real wake up call. Because whatever the policy challenge, deliberate cruelty to innocent people is never the answer,” said Mr Webb.

Mr Webb currently assists over 380 refugees and asylum seekers that the Australian Government evacuated from offshore detention on Nauru and Manus Island. The group, many of whom have been rebuilding their lives in the Australian community, includes women sexually assaulted on Nauru, men shot and attacked on Manus and children who were so traumatised by offshore detention that they needed urgent psychiatric care.

“Pluralism is about valuing diversity and recognising that all people, whoever they are and wherever they come from, deserve basic decency and respect. At the core of our government’s refugee policies is something completely antithetical to pluralism - the deliberate, cynical dehumanisation and mistreatment of an entire group of people,” said Mr Webb.

About the Global Centre for Pluralism

Founded in Ottawa by His Highness the Aga Khan in partnership with the Government of Canada, the Global Centre for Pluralism is an independent, charitable organization. Inspired by Canada’s experience as a diverse and inclusive country, the Centre was created to advance positive responses to the challenge of living peacefully and productively together in diverse societies. Former Prime Minister of Canada, Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, is Chair of the Global Pluralism Award jury.

For interviews or further information please call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519