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August 28, 2011

ADVERSE SECURITY REFUGEES LODGE HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLAINT WITH GENEVA UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

In a significant international challenge to their detention, thirty-nine refugees who have been refused visas because of ASIO adverse security findings will lodge a formal complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, on Monday 29 August.

The letter asserts that the Australian government has violated the refugee’s human rights by breaching a number of sections of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – for details see attachment

These breaches include that the refugee’s detention is arbitrary and/or unlawful; that no effective judicial review of detention is available; that the refugees have been subject to inhumane or degrading treatment in detention, and the government has breached family and children’s rights.

The thirty-nine refugees, including six of the Oceanic Viking Tamils, are all being held in indefinite detention, without any possibility of review of their cases under existing Australian laws. All have been in detention more than a year; the longest has been in detention 26 months.

“Indefinite detention, without judicial review, is a serious violation of international law,” Professor Ben Saul, of Sydney University Law School, who assisted the preparation of the complaint.

“It is also illegal to detain people without telling them the reasons for their detention. Australia is inflicting serious mental harm on these people, some of whom have been in detention for two and a half years.

Australia should release them immediately from detention and respect its obligation to protect people from arbitrary, unlawful detention.”

The Australian government has six months to respond to the complaint.

The complaint asks the UN Committee to request Australia to release the refugees, or provide reasons for their detention, including reasons for the adverse security assessments. It also asks Australia to provide a fair court process that will enable the refugees to challenge their detention and their security assessment. It also asks for an apology and for compensation.

“The detention of these refugees is discriminatory and defies natural justice. No court can review the ASIO assessment; the refugees cannot challenge the ASIO finding.

“ASIO is not even required to give reasons for the adverse security findings, so the refugees have no opportunity to respond to any allegations against them. Yet the government gives them and their families, what is effectively a life sentence because of such findings,” said Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition.

For media comment contact Professor Ben Saul 0424 365 146, or Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713

[Newspaper or radio interviews with one of the refugee’s wives can be arranged by contacting Ian Rintoul]

Background:

Complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee

A complaint will be made to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva. There are around 42 people who have received adverse security assessments and remain in detention.

The complaint claims that refugee’s human rights have been violated by Australia under an international treaty that Australia has signed. It argues that:
· Refugee’s initial immigration detention was unlawful because Australia did not assess the need to personally detain individuals when they arrived;
· Refugee’s detention after the adverse security assessment by ASIO is unlawful because there are no reasonable prospects of removing them to another safe country;
· Refugees’ detention is unlawful because the reasons and evidence for the adverse security assessments have not been given to them;
· Refugee’s detention is unlawful because no Australian court can review it;
· Refugee’s detention is unlawful because Australia did not consider whether any other alternatives were available, such as releasing them into the community;
· Refugee’s detention is unlawful because the conditions of detention are unsafe and harmful to their mental and physical health;
· In the case of families being in detention, the complaint also says that Australia has unlawfully interfered in the protection of that refugee’s family’s rights.

The complaint asks the UN Committee to request Australia to release the refugees from detention, or provide reasons for their detention, including reasons for the security assessments. It also asks Australia to provide a fair court process for to allow them to challenge their detention and their security assessment, and to apologise to the individuals, and compensate them.

When the complaint is submitted to the UN, Australia must respond to it within six months. We then have three months to respond. After that, the UN Committee will decide the case.

The UN Committee’s final decision is not binding like a court, and Australia may choose not to comply with it even if the case succeeds. But an adverse finding by the UN complaint will be a significant international statement of Australia’s mistreatment of these refugees and may to bring international diplomatic pressure on, and criticism of the Australian government

The complaint also asks for ‘interim measures’ to be issued immediately. This is an order from the UN Committee to release the refugees immediately from detention until the case is finally decided.

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