UN says Australia guilty of human rights violation

A United Nations committee has found Australia guilty of nearly 150 violations of international law for indefinite detention of 46 refugees.

Melbourne: A United Nations committee has found Australia guilty of nearly 150 violations of international law for indefinite detention of 46 refugees.

It is said to be the most damning assessment of human rights in Australia by a UN committee, according to `The Age` newspaper on Friday.

Australian government has been ordered to release the refugees, in detention for over four years, "Under individually appropriate conditions" and provide them with rehabilitation and compensation, the report said.

The federal government has been given 180 days to assure the UN committee that it has acted on the recommendation and has also taken steps to prevent "similar violations in future".

The UN`s Human Rights Committee concluded that the continued detention of the asylum seekers, most of them Sri Lankan Tamils, was "cumulatively inflicting serious psychological harm" and was in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

A probe that led to the committee`s conclusion was initiated after a complaint was lodged on behalf of the refugees on August, 2011 by Ben Saul of the Sydney Centre for International Law who said that the finding proved the "grave lawlessness" of Australian refugee policies.

"It is a major embarrassment for Australia, which is a member of the Security Council and often criticises human rights in other countries. Australia should do the right thing by respecting its international obligations and treating the refugees decently," as the report quoted Saul.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has assured to "carefully consider" the committee`s views and reply within the six-month time-frame.

"The government is actively exploring solutions for persons who are owed protection obligations and are the subject of an adverse security assessment," his office said.

The committee of 18 human rights experts found that, whatever justification there may have been for an initial detention, the government had not demonstrated on an individual basis that the continuous indefinite detention of the refugees was justified.

"The state party [government] has not demonstrated that other, less intrusive, measures could not have achieved the same end of compliance with the state party`s need to respond to the security risk that the adult authors [refugees] are said to represent," it said.

It has also been found that those held were "not informed of the specific risk attributed to each of them" and that meant they were unable to mount a legal challenge to their indefinite detention, the report said.

While the committee has consistently found fault with Australia`s system of mandatory immigration detention, Saul said, this finding went much further.
"It is the largest complaint ever upheld against Australia," he said.


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