Amnesty International criticises government for abuse and torture of Indigenous children and refugee’s
The head of Amnesty International in Australia has criticised Australia’s “inconsistent approach” to human rights, saying it could damage the country’s bid for a seat on the United Nations human rights council.
Mallinson made the comments ahead of the release of the 2017/17 State of the World’s Human Rights report on Wednesday, which criticised Australia for its continued use of offshore immigration detention and for the reported abuses of Indigenous children in youth justice facilities, including abuses at the Northern Territory’s Don Dale detention centre that prompted a royal commission.
As of 30 November there were 383 people held in indefinite detention on Nauru, including 44 children and 49 woman, and around 900 men in detention on Manus Island, despite the Papua New Guinea supreme court ruling their detention unlawful.
Mallinson said the refugee resettlement deal struck with the United States in November was “in essence government acknowledging that this is an unsustainable situation”.
“The reality is the government could end this tomorrow,” she said. “It could put all of these people on a plane and resettle them in Australia and end their misery, rather than effectively being held hostage as a deterrent. They could do that today, they don’t have to wait for the US, or Canada, or New Zealand.”
Mallinson said 2016 had seen the rise of an “us versus them rhetoric” in global politics, which could lead to further human rights abuses.
The Amnesty International secretary general, Salil Shetty, writing in the foreword of the report, said 2016 had been a year of “unrelenting misery and fear” for millions, highlighting the bombing of Aleppo, increased persecution of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, and unlawful killings in South Sudan.
Shetty said the gap between rhetoric and action, particularly on the refugee crisis, was “staggering”.
The report also criticised Australia for its continued over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who are 15 times more likely to be jailed than non-Indigenous Australians.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 24 times more likely to be jailed than their non-Indigenous peers, and in 2016 every state except Tasmania jailed children as young as 10 or 11, contrary to the international convention on the rights of the child which states the minimum age of criminal culpability should be 12.
Mallinson said Australia needed to implement a consistent, federally led strategy to reduce incarceration, rather than allowing a piecemeal approach.
“There are some fantastic prevention and support programs across Australia, but they are living hand to mouth,” she said. “They have good results and then suddenly they get their funding pulled.”