Amnesty International, assisted by the Human Rights Law Centre, has been granted leave to participate in a powerful PNG National Court inquiry examining whether PNG human rights laws are being breached by the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island.
Speaking from Manus Island, the HRLC’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, said the PNG Constitution contains strong human rights protections and the Court will assess whether PNG human rights laws are being upheld.
“In the 16 months since the first transfers to Manus took place no asylum seeker has been able to bring a case to enforce their rights. Consequently, the PNG National Court has taken it upon itself to investigate whether asylum seekers’ human rights are being respected,” said Mr Webb.
“The Australian Government has gone to great lengths and great expense to keep asylum seekers in such a remote and isolated location in an attempt to keep them beyond the reach of the rule of law. Well now the rule of law is going to them,” said Mr Webb.
Amnesty International Pacific Researcher, Kate Schuetze, welcomed the Court’s decision to grant Amnesty leave to participate in the case.
“Amnesty International is the only independent non-government organisation to have publicly reported on conditions on Manus. The National Court case is an important opportunity to address the key human rights concerns raised in our report last year” said Ms Schuetze.
The National Court is progressing the case rapidly, announcing that the entire proceeding will be concluded and judgment delivered by the end of March.
If the Court finds evidence of past human rights violations or a likelihood of future violations, it has broad powers to make whatever orders it thinks necessary to protect asylum seekers’ human rights.
Any orders made by the Court would be binding and enforceable.
Amnesty International and the HRLC have received assistance from King & Wood Mallesons, Charles Scerri QC, Ron Merkel QC and Craig Lenehan.
For further information or comments, contact:
Daniel Webb, Human Rights Law Centre Director of Legal Advocacy, (0011) +6757 009 6330 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International Pacific Researcher, +6438 305 235 or Kate.Schuetze@amnesty.org
Hugh de Kretser (in Australia), Human Rights Law Centre Executive Director on 0403 965 340