Time for ACT to lead on rights again

At a gathering marking 20 years of the ACT’s anti-discrimination laws, the ACT Attorney-General, Simon Corbell, said he wants to widen the territory’s legal recognition of human rights so it includes economic, social and cultural rights. He said he would encourage his cabinet colleagues to make the ACT a leader again on rights legislation. The Department of Justice and Community Safety has previously looked at the feasibility of including economic, social and cultural rights in the ACT’s Human Rights Act and Mr Corbell believes the Act, the nation's first, should be expanded. He wants the territory government to adopt the recommendations of a report produced last year, on economic, social and cultural rights.

Meanwhile, the former ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope has also used a speech to mark Human Rights Week by urging the ACT Government to extend its human rights regime. Mr Stanhope said all deaths in custody should be covered by corporate murder laws.

Mr Stanhope believes Australia should follow Britain’s lead and introduce laws to allow negligence leading to a death in custody to be prosecuted.

“'There have been 27 deaths in immigration detention since 2000, with five in the last year, and there is a sense of growing concern about the mental health and treatment of detainees in privatised detention centres,'' Mr Stanhope said. “These deaths are currently dealt with in coroners' courts and in an ad hoc manner, state by state or territory, and mostly in a highly reactive way.'”

Such laws would mean authorities in charge of prisons, police lock-ups, immigration detention centres and psychiatric facilities would be liable for prosecution if their negligence results in the death of detainees.

Mr Stanhope also criticized the CPSU – the union representing prison guards – for opposing needle exchange programs in prisoners in the ACT.

Source: The Canberra Times