On 1 August 2007, the Human Rights Law Resource Centre made a submission, entitled Fostering a Human Rights Culture, to the Consultation Committee for the Proposed Western Australian Human Rights Act. The submission was prepared with substantial input from Allens Arthur Robinson, one of Australia’s leading commercial law firms.
On 23 November 2007, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted General Comment 19 on the Right to Social Security under article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. A General Comment is an authoritative statement by a treaty body of the content and application of a particular right and may be relevant both to the interpretation and application of international and domestic law and policy.
The General Comment adopts a number of recommendations and observations made by the Human Rights Law Resource Centre in our submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of June 2006 in relation to their Draft General Comment on the Right to Social Security under article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
In conjunction with the Mallesons Human Rights Law Group, in Octover 2007 the Centre assisted the Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic) to make a Submission to the Victorian Government regarding the draft Family Violence Bill 2007, which provides for the making of interim and final family violence orders.
In conjunction with Native Title Services Victoria and DLA Phillips Fox, on 8 October 2007, the Centre made a Submission to the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council regarding Indigenous land management and cultural practices in the River Red Gums Forests. The submission considers the application of the rights and obligations contained in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 to the Council’s draft proposals regarding the River Red Gums Forests.
On 14 September 2007, the Centre made a Submission to SARC regarding the Justice Legislation Amendment Bill.
In the Centre’s view, the provisions relating to interception and censorship of prisoner correspondence engage human rights under s 13 (right to freedom from unlawful or arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence) and s 15 (right to freedom of expression) of the Charter, while the provisions regarding the use of firearms against escaping prisoners engage s 9 (right to life).
On 24 August 2007, the Centre made a Submission to the UN Committee against Torture in response to Draft General Comment No 2. The Draft General Comment is of significant importance to the normative development of international human rights law.
Although the prohibition against torture is a non-derogable human right and a peremptory norm of customary international law, it continues to be flagrantly violated. For example, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment reports that during the period from 16 December 2005 to 15 December 2006, he sent 79 letters of allegations of torture to 35 governments and 157 urgent appeals to 60 governments on behalf of persons who might be at risk of torture or other forms of ill-treatment. These statistics highlight the urgent need for state parties to receive practical instruction in respect of the Convention and in particular, article 2, which underpins the Convention's absolute prohibition against torture.
On 21 August 2007, the UN Human Rights Committee released General Comment No 32 on the right to equality before courts and tribunals and to a fair trial under art 14 of the ICCPR. General Comment No 32 will be an important source of guidance on the interpretation and application of s 24 of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, which enshrines the right to a fair hearing, and s 25, which guarantees various rights in criminal proceedings.
The Centre is pleased and proud that the General Comment incorporates a number of recommendations made in the Centre’s submission on the draft General Comment in January 2007.
On 10 August 2007, the Centre made a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 and Related Bills. The submission focuses on the potential impact of the proposed legislation on Australia's international human rights obligations, including in relation to the rights to non-discrimination, adequate housing, health, social security, participation, self-determination and land rights.
Family Rights: Nystrom v Australia - Individual Communication to UN Human Rights Committee (Apr 2007) Stefan Nystrom was born in 1973 and, until very recently, had lived permanently in Australia since he was 27 days old. He is a Swedish citizen but has no relevant ties to Sweden or any State other than Australia.
The detailed Individual Communication, which was submitted on 4 April 2007, alleges that Mr Nystrom's detention and deportation were in violation of articles 9, 12(4), 14(7), 17 and 23 of the ICCPR. It seeks compensation and reinstatement of permanent residency.
On 13 February 2007, the Human Rights Law Resource Centre made a submission to the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council in response to their Discussion and Options Paper, entitled High-Risk Offenders: Post-Sentence Supervision and Detention. As the Paper identifies, a scheme of post-sentence supervision and detention may be incompatible with or infringe a range of human rights under both international human rights law (particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) and domestic human rights law (particularly the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities).