Tony Abbott has rejected allegations of systemic torture in the country’s immigration system by telling the UN that Australians are “sick of being lectured” on the subject and that his stance is, in fact, “compassionate”.
A UN report, to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, found that the Australian immigration system breached the global convention on torture and inhuman treatment.
“The government of Australia, by failing to provide adequate detention conditions; end the practice of detention of children; and put a stop to the escalating violence and tension at the regional processing centre, has violated the right of the asylum seekers including children to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” the report by UN special rapporteur Juan Mendez said.
One particularly shocking incident detailed in the report involves two asylum seekers held in a “processing centre” for migrants on Manus Island
The migrants, referred to as Mr A and Mr B, allege that they were tied to chairs by their captors and threatened with “physical violence, rape, and prosecution” if they refused to retract statements to police about the alleged murder by guards of another asylum seeker.
The UN report concluded that the allegations had “substance” and that the Australian government “has violated [the detainees’] right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.
Two government amendments to immigration legislation would also lead to further inhumane treatment, the report says.
“The Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment … violates the Convention Against Torture because it allows for the arbitrary detention and refugee determination at sea, without access to lawyers,” the report said.
“The Migration Amendment (Character and General Visa Cancellation Bill) violates the [Convention Against Torture] because it tightens control on the issuance of visas on the basis of character and risk assessments.”
But Australian Prime Minister said the report would have “more credibility” if the United Nations gave Australia more “credit” for its actions.
“I really think Australians are sick of being lectured to by the United Nations, particularly given that we have stopped the boats, and by stopping the boats, we have ended the deaths at sea,” he said at a press conference in the state of Western Australia.