Torture and cruel treatment: 77 organisations slam Australia’s declining standards

Seventy seven organisations have united to warn that Australia’s standards are sliding when it comes to the prevention of torture and cruel treatment.

In a detailed joint report, a coalition of non-government organisations has assessed Australia’s track record against the UN’s Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Australia signed up to in 1985. The report – endorsed by organisations such as People with Disability Australia, Save the Children and the Refugee Council of Australia – finds that overall, Australia’s standards are declining.

The Human Right Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy, Rachel Ball, who coordinated the report, said cruel and degrading treatment has no place in Australia.

“In a number of areas Australia is failing to ensure people are not subjected to cruel treatment, whilst in other areas the Government is directly responsible. A country like Australia really has no excuse for failing to eradicate all forms of torture and cruel treatment” said Ms Ball.

The report examines Government policies and practices in a wide range of areas such as: refugee law and policy; prison conditions; over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the criminal justice system; violence against women; treatment of people with disability; rape and sexual violence against children; counter-terrorism measures; and Australia’s military and security cooperation with foreign governments.

“The Government’s willingness to return asylum seekers to danger in their countries of origin is obviously an area where we are falling well short of our obligations under the Convention,” said Ms Ball.

Examples of violations in the report include: the prolonged detention of a six-year-old girl with post traumatic stress disorder in immigration detention on Christmas Island; the death of a man who was Tasered 14 times by police officers; and the experience of a woman with disability who faced significant barriers escaping violence perpetrated by her live-in carer because no suitable alternative accommodation was available.

Ms Ball said in addition to not committing human rights violations, Governments also had obligations to actively protect people from having their rights violated by others. 

“Violence against women is a prime example of the Australian Government failing to address one of the most serious and widespread human right problems faced by Australians. The Convention Against Torture requires governments to do more to prevent, investigate, punish and redress violence against women. Providing adequate frontline services for women in need would be a great starting point,” said Ms Ball.

The report was prepared for the UN’s Committee Against Torture ahead of its review of Australia’s compliance with the Convention schedule to take place in November. The Committee, made up of independent international experts, will consider Australia’s track record and make a series of findings and recommendations.

A copy of the NGO Report can be found here.


For further information or comments, please contact: Rachel Ball on 0434 045 919 or via rachel.ball @