19 March 2015
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, and eminent human rights lawyer Greg Barns will be available to discuss the most recent correspondence with the International Criminal Court in regard to Australia’s non-compliance with the Rome Statute and crimes against humanity against asylum seekers.
In essence Mr Wilkie, in cooperation with Mr Barns, has drawn the Prosecutor’s attention to the damning findings in this month’s United Nations Report of the Special Rapporteur, Juan Méndez, on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. He has also highlighted that the Prime Minster and his Cabinet have also repeatedly rejected the findings by the UN Human Rights Committee that the continued detention of refugees subject to adverse security assessments constitutes arbitrary detention.
Extracts of Mr Wilkie’s letter
“I wish to draw your attention to the findings contained in the United Nations Report of the Special Rapporteur, Juan Méndez, on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Report was released in Geneva by the Human Rights Council on 6 March 2015.
“In particular I respectfully draw the attention of the Office of the Prosecutor to the conclusions of the Special Rapporteur about the ongoing detention of 203 Sri Lankan asylum seekers and their incommunicado detention. I also note the Special Rapporteur’s conclusions about the impact of legislation drafted and introduced in the Australian Parliament by the members of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 and the Migration Amendment (Character and General Visa Cancellation) Bill 2014 are now Australian law.
“The Special Rapporteur concludes that the above legislation violates the rights of a group of persons, namely asylum seekers and migrants, to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to the Prime Minister’s response to this Report. In a public statement he said that “Australians are sick of being lectured by the United Nations, particularly given that we have stopped the boats and by stopping the boats we have ended the deaths at sea”.
“It is respectfully submitted that the Prime Minister’s comments in relation to the Report indicate a state of mind that is, at the very least, reckless as to whether or not breaches of the Rome Statute are occurring as a consequence of his and the Cabinet’s policies. The issue of intent is of course one for your office.
“The Prime Minster and his Cabinet have also repeatedly rejected the findings by the United Nations Human Rights Committee that the continued detention of refugees subject to adverse security assessments constitutes arbitrary detention.
“For instance recently their government failed to comply with, and missed by almost a year the 180-day deadline to respond, the Committee’s July 2013 ruling regarding more than 30 recognised refugees. These people were subject to indefinite detention without trial and the Committee recommended they be released and compensated.’’
In October last year Mr Wilkie, in cooperation with Mr Barns, requested the Prosecutor at the ICC initiate an investigation in accordance with Article 15(1) of the Rome Statute.
Article 7 of the Rome Statute defines ‘crimes against humanity’ to mean acts such as deportation, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law, and torture and other similar acts that are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population. Actions such as forced transfers to other countries, detention without trial, detention of children and conditions of detention clearly constitute breaches of Article 7.
“The actions of the Prime Minister and members of his Government against asylum seekers are criminal,’’ Mr Wilkie said.
Last month, Mr Wilkie provided the Prosecutor with a comprehensive brief on this matter. The Office of the Prosecutor has replied that it is analysing the situation to decide if there is reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.
A copy of the letter is attached.