Two parallel class actions have been launched in the High Court for around 1,200 remaining asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.
Human rights lawyers with the National Justice Project made the announcement for the representative actions yesterday, with the legal team filing the actions to be led by Julian Burnside QC.
Covering all remaining asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru, the plaintiffs allege “group members in each class action have been subjected to torture, crimes against humanity and the intentional infliction of harm by the Australian government.”
Plaintiffs are seeking injunctions to stop the government’s breaching of its duty of care, as well as damages.
A statement from the National Justice Project said that the plaintiffs are arguing “that the conditions under which the group members are held inflict severe physical and/or mental pain or suffering upon the group members, which does not arise only from, and is not inherent in or incidental to, lawful sanctions.”
Those conditions include the arbitrary imprisonment and other severe deprivation of physical liberty; denial of proper medical assessment and treatment; inadequate security and protection to asylum seekers; as well as inadequate food and water within inadequate accommodation and an unhygienic environment.
Their argument is that the Commonwealth government “intentionally continues to treat the group members in the manner described above in order to deter other people from trying to get to Australia by boat to seek asylum.”
The National Justice Project said its clients “are seeking to enforce their civil rights rather than criminal prosecution because a prosecution for such acts under the Commonwealth Criminal Code requires the approval of the Attorney-General.”
It comes after the LCA applauded parliamentary efforts to remove sick asylum seekers from Nauru.