Joint media release from the Human Rights Law Centre, the Kaldor Centre and the Refugee Council of Australia concerning the upcoming Committee against Torture (CAT) review of Australia.
The Albanese Government must end the practice of locking people in immigration detention for years on end in dire conditions, human rights experts have told the United Nations, ahead of its investigation of the Australian government’s compliance with the Convention Against Torture treaty. It must also repeal laws that are resulting in record numbers of people being detained.
The United Nations Committee against Torture will investigate Australia’s human rights track record in November. The review takes place as the average length of time that people are detained in immigration detention reaches a record high of more than two years (736 days), which is vastly out of step with countries like Canada and the United States, where the average is 30 and 48 days respectively. In Australia, more than 100 people have been locked up for longer than five years. At least two people have died in Australian immigration detention centres this year alone.
The Human Rights Law Centre, the Refugee Council of Australia and UNSW Sydney's Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law have told the Committee that Australia must change the laws that currently allow the Government to detain people for unlimited time and potentially their whole lives. Arbitrary and indefinite detention is a breach of the prohibition on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under the Convention.
Madeline Gleeson, Senior Research Fellow at the Kaldor Centre said:
'Global events are reminding us more than ever of the importance of international norms, respect for basic human rights, and protection for people fleeing persecution, serious harm and conflict. Within Australia, there is a lot to be done to bring our treatment of asylum seekers and refugees into line with international standards. The Committee against Torture's review of Australia provides a timely and welcome opportunity for our country to strengthen its relationship with the international human rights system, and ensure that no person in Australia is subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.'
Sanmati Verma, Managing Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said:
'The number of people detained in Australia increased, rather than decreased, during the pandemic. People are spending longer in immigration detention than ever – sometimes ten years, because Australia has abdicated all responsibility. These are the direct human consequences of mandatory immigration detention – the government can lock people up forever without consequences. The Albanese government must confront this sorry legacy.'
The Committee against Torture is the United Nations body of 10 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by its States parties. The Committee against Torture works to hold States accountable for human rights violations, systematically investigating reports of torture in order to stop and prevent this crime.
This week the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture will also visit Australia to inspect places of detention and will see firsthand the dire conditions and harsh treatment in immigration detention centres. In recent years, independent reports have made damning findings about excessive use of force by detention centre staff against people who are detained, and the use of solitary confinement as punishment.