Australia criticised on human rights record
Australia’s reputation has been damaged by human rights issues including its ‘draconian’ asylum seeker policy, overly broad counter-terrorism laws and failure to protect children in detention, according to a new global report released by Human Rights Watch.
“Refugees and asylum seekers languish in limbo after years of detention, and new laws will subject children to easy-to-abuse control orders,” said Elaine Pearson, the organisation’s Australian director.
“If Australia wants to be a global human rights leader, then it should take immediate steps to end these unlawful policies,” Ms Pearson said.
The report recommends Australia take responsibility for the refugees it placed in Papua New Guinea and Nauru and end the system of offshore asylum processing and detention.
The organisation also criticised Australia for a double-standard on human rights.
“Australia raises human rights concerns in other countries, but does so very selectively,” the report said.
“It seldom raises human rights concerns publicly about countries it works closely with in interdicting asylum seekers and refugees or with which it has significant trade relations.”
The report says that indigenous adults are 13 times more likely to be imprisoned in Australia than non-indigenous counterparts and the nation still does not recognise the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Human Rights Watch reviewed more than 90 countries in its 687-page report and for Australia, the asylum seeker policy drew most criticism.
The report also said that the federal government’s introduction last year of counter-terrorism laws were “incrementally chipping away at fundamental rights”.
“Indefinite and arbitrary detention of prisoners who have already served their time undermines the rule of law, a crucial component of countering terrorism,” Ms Pearson said.
“While Australia has a responsibility to protect its citizens from harm, this shouldn’t come at the cost of undermining basic rights,” she said.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist