The Australian Government has today formally responded to recommendations made by the UN’s Human Rights Council in February this year, claiming it will accept, at least in part, 90 percent of the recommendations arising from the Universal Periodic Review process. Whilst welcoming the majority of the Government’s response, the Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of International Human Rights Advocacy, Ben Schokman, said the ten percent the Government has rejected contain some of the most significant recommendations.
“On the asylum seeker issue the Australian Government has its head firmly in the sand. It continues to deliberately ignore the growing chorus of international voices and authorities that are saying loud and clear that mandatory and prolonged detention, including of children, is simply not acceptable. The Government’s stance on immigration issues really is a blight on an otherwise decent response,” Mr Schokman said.
The Australian Government announced last year that it would move unaccompanied children out detention. But by April the number of children in detention had increased by 300 to 1048. The Government recently flagged that it will send unaccompanied children to Malaysia for processing.
“Being a stable and highly developed democracy, we’ve been quite hopeful that Australia would respond well to the UPR process and really take on board the constructive suggestions received by some of our closest international allies. On the whole they have done this, but it must be said the Government has side stepped the contentious issues such as migration detention and gay rights and has also been a bit slippery in their responses to a number of other recommendations,” Mr Schokman said.
About 30 percent of the recommendations accepted have been accepted on the basis that the Government believes domestic laws already address the recommendations. Mr Schokman rejects many of these assertions. For example he said that the Australian Government’s response to recommendations to strengthen equality protections for women was that legislation to amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 was already passed in May 2011, when in fact the changes introduced do not respond to the vast majority of key concerns with the legislation.
On the positive side, Mr Schokman believes it is very encouraging that the Government has accepted many of the recommendations, but says that the Government now needs to build on its formal response by developing a concrete implementation plan with clear responsibilities, timeframes and targets.
Media enquiries: Ben Schokman 0403 622 810 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Further background information on Australia's Universal Periodic Review appearance, including the Australian Government's report, NGO materials and media coverage, is available at http://www.hrlc.org.au/upr.