In a significant turn of events, the Australian government announced this week that it will ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), a vital addition to the Convention Against Torture (CAT).
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) has become the fifth UN body in the last year to criticise Australia’s treatment of people seeking asylum and refugees.
Asher Hirsch, Senior Policy Officer with the Refugee Council of Australia said, “The Refugee Council and all compassionate and law abiding Australians are deeply disappointed that for the fifth time in just one year a UN body has publicly raised very serious criticisms of Australia’s treatment of refugees”.
The UN CERD report, examined Australia’s commitment and progress in working to eliminate racial discrimination and made 47 recommendations. These included; Australia to amend its laws to stop the transfer and indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees; cease the policy and practice of offshore detention; desist from sending vulnerable people back to countries where they may face persecution; and to re-establish a fair process for assessing refugee claims.
Mr Hirsch said “The Refugee Council is profoundly concerned about the lives and safety of many thousands of people suffering due to Australia’s cruel policy and practices. The sustained international criticism and the growing opposition in the Australian community will ultimately end these cruel practices and, we sincerely hope that no further people will die or continue to suffer before this teetering brutality finally collapses.
The UN CERD report also found that Australia was delinquent in its approach and funding of efforts to reduce racism, particularly in how it worked and its support for, community and grassroots groups. The UN Committee also found Australia could do more to reduce racist hate speech, including in the media and improve the understanding and value of diversity in the courts, public and civil services.
“It is sadly ironic that as Australia sits on the UN Human Rights Council, Australia is fast becoming an international pariah in relation to its human rights record”, Mr Hirsch said.
For more information call Tim O’Connor on 0431 147 366