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Lawyers turn up the heat on calls to protect offshore detainees

Lawyers turn up the heat on calls to protect offshore detainees

International law obligations that will soon be ratified by the Australian government must be applied to Australia’s offshore facilities accommodating asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru, a legal advocacy group has said.

“The announcement that the federal government will ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) means that places of detention under Australia’s jurisdiction and control will be subjected to monitoring by a UN body, the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT),” the group said.  

“In addition, Australia will set up a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) which will be responsible for regularly monitoring detention, and reporting back to the government and the SPT to eliminate the risks of mistreatment.

Ratification of the OPCAT would see that people detained by governments in Australia both positively impacted.

President of the group, Laura Neil, said the ALA was a long-time supporter of Australia legislating the optional protocol. She said the move had the potential to lift the standard of care of detainees, whether they were convicted prisoners, asylum seekers or others in detention.

“In our jails, immigration detention facilities, youth detention centres and psychiatric units, abuses of human rights are all too common and often go unnoticed,” Mrs Neil said.

Implementation of OPCAT monitoring in all Australian detention facilities around the world, including those on Manus Island and Nauru, was essential, she added.

Australian workplace health and safety law applies in these countries with offshore detention, and monitoring is absolutely essential,” Mrs Neil said.

“The SPT has said that, where a country detains people outside of its own territory, then that country should enter an arrangement with the country where people are being detained to ensure that inspections can take place as required by the treaty.”

“Australia must come to arrangements with Nauru and PNG, where there is no doubt that refugees and asylum seekers ‘are or may be deprived of their liberty’ by Australia, to allow inspections to take place.”

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