UN prepares to question Australia regarding torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment

Australia’s form is bad and getting worse when it comes to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, the United Nations will hear tomorrow.

The UN’s Committee Against Torture is set to review Australia’s implementation and compliance with the Convention. As part of the review the Human Rights Law Centre coordinated a joint NGO report, endorsed by 77 NGO’s from around the country, highlighting many serious and ongoing human rights issues.

HRLC Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, is in Geneva for the review and will meet with members of the UN Committee on Friday. Mr Webb explained that many of the issues identified by the Committee at Australia’s last review remain unaddressed.

“In 2008 the Committee raised concerns about Australia’s mandatory and indefinite detention of asylum seekers, its incredibly broad counter-terror laws and the over incarceration of Indigenous peoples. Six years on, Australia is now locking up asylum seekers in inhumane conditions in three different countries, it has significantly expanded its counter-terror laws and it continues to imprison Indigenous Australians at 15 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians,” said Mr Webb.

“Australia’s form isn’t good. I expect the UN will be deeply concerned and keen for some answers,” said Mr Webb.

In addition to not committing human rights violations, Australia also has obligations to actively protect people from having their rights violated by others. Mr Webb explained that much more needs to be done on both fronts.

“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 prevent, investigate, punish and redress violence against women, yet there is insufficient action on all of these fronts,” said Mr Webb.

Along with other NGO representatives, Mr Webb will brief the Committee on Friday at 12pm Geneva time (10pm AEDST). The session is closed to media and the public.

The Committee will then question Australian Government representatives on Monday 10 November at 10am (8pm AEDST) and Tuesday 11 November at 3pm (1am AEDST). Those sessions can be watched live at http://treatybodywebcast.org/.

The Committee will make findings and recommendations that provide a blueprint for Government action to prevent cruel and inhumane treatment.


For further information contact:
Tom Clarke, HRLC Director of Communications, on 0422 545 763 or tom.clarke@hrlc.org.au