SYDNEY: Prime Minister Tony Abbott Saturday (Feb 14) pleaded with Indonesia to heed Australia’s call for clemency for two death row convicts, and warned that Canberra would make its displeasure known should the executions go ahead.
Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 33, are facing execution by firing squad after being convicted over a failed 2005 bid to traffic heroin from Indonesia’s island of Bali into Australia.
“Millions of Australians are feeling very, very upset about what may soon happen to two Australians in Indonesia,” Abbott told reporters in Sydney. “And my plea, even at this late stage, is for Indonesia to be as responsive to us as it expects other countries to be to them when they plead for the life of their citizens on death row overseas.”
Meanwhile, an Australian human rights watchdog for the swift release of children of asylum seekers currently held in immigration detention centres.
President of Australia’s Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, demanded the most powerful form of inquiry to further examine the 23-year-old practice of mandatory detention for asylum seekers and their families, travelling to Australia by boat.
The strongly worded call came after results of an inquiry which took place between January 2013 and March 2014, found 233 assaults involving child detainees and 33 reported sexual assaults.
In the same ten-month period, the 315-page report revealed a further 128 detained children had tried to harm themselves using methods including self-cutting and swallowing insect repellent.
“I don’t have any hope,” a teenager detained on Christmas Island told the commission. “I feel I will die in detention.”
Up to 120 children and young people currently being held in the Nauru island detention centre were found by the commission to be suffering from “extreme levels” of physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress.
More than a third of detained children suffer from mental health disorders.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott ruled out a royal commission on the issue saying the Australian Human Rights Commission ought to be “ashamed of itself” for an inquiry he calls “blatantly partisan”.
Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre, Melbourne said: “With hundreds of children still in detention, it’s deeply concerning that instead of acting to address the suffering the government has attacked the commission for doing its job.”
Professor Triggs said the report was “even handed”.
“Alternatives to indefinite detention, such as community detention, have not been properly considered by government decision makers, and the safety and well-being of children has not been a primary consideration,” she said.
Asked if he felt any guilt about the treatment of children in detention, Abbott replied: “None whatsoever.”