US State Department annual human rights report highlights violence against women, Indigenous disadvantage and prolonged detention of asylum seekers as issues in Australia

The US State Department has highlighted violence against women and children, Indigenous disadvantage and the prolonged detention of asylum seekers as “principal problem areas” in Australia in its annual report on the state of human rights around the world. Launching the report on 24 May 2012, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “respect for human rights is not a western construct or a uniquely American ideal; it is the foundation for peace and stability everywhere”.

While noting that “there were no widespread human rights violations” in Australia, the report also documents concerns in relation to freedom of the press (specifically citing the Bolt case), delays in processing asylum applications, and the underrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples “among the political leadership”.

The State Department’s Human Rights Country Report on Australia is available online here.

…while Australia tells Tunisia to enact a Bill of Rights and calls on Indonesia to uphold the right to free expression and a fair trial

Despite being the only developed Western democracy without a national human rights act, Australia has called on Tunisia to enact a constitutional Bill of Rights in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council.

Tunisia is one of 14 countries currently being reviewed by the Council under the Universal Periodic Review process. In its statements on other states currently under review, Australia also recommended that:

  • the United Kingdom should strengthen the mandate and independence of its Children’s Commissioner;
  • India should prioritise efforts to ensure that children with disabilities have adequate access to education;
  • Brazil should address concerns over conditions and abuse in prisons;
  • Indonesia should “respect and uphold freedom of expression, including political expression”, “increase human rights transparency by improving the access of local and international media organisations…throughout Indonesia”, “ensure fair and proper legal action in relation to those investigated and prosecuted, including impartial trials and reasonable sentences, as well as detention standards that meet international norms” and “ensure prompt, comprehensive, and effective investigations into credible allegations of human rights violations by members of the security forces”; and
  • Morocco should ensure that “all detainees are either charged with recognizable criminal offences and tried in accordance with international standards for fair trial, or immediately released”.

Australia’s statements to the UN Human Rights Council are available online at: