Oh the irony….
A former Supreme Court judge of the Australian state of Victoria has warned that guards at immigration detention centres will in effect be allowed to “beat asylum seekers to death” under a proposed amendment to an migration bill.
During a Senate hearing on changes to Australia’s Migration Act, Stephen Charles QC said that an extension to the power of guards in detention centres would allow officers to use “reasonable force against any person” in order to protect the life, health or safety of people in detention or to maintain the good order, peace, or security of a detention centre.
However, Mr Charles told the hearing that the proposed measures would “inevitably encourage violence” against asylum seekers, the Guardian reported.
“These amendments will authorise detention centre guards to beat asylum seekers to death if they reasonably believe it is necessary to do so to save either themselves or another person from serious harm,” he said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
He went on to warn that the proposed powers would give officers immunity currently granted to state and federal police forces, despite their lower level of training.
Using the example of Walter Scott, a black man who was fatally shot in the back by a white police officer, Mr Charles warned against bringing the “reasonable belief” test to Australia.
Mr Charles told the Senate hearing the new powers were “a joke in extremely bad taste” and advised it to “can” the amendments and “start from scratch”, ABC News reported.
Gillian Triggs, the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, told the Senate a bar on proceedings would make it “virtually impossible” to bring forward any action, because of the difficulty of demonstrating bad faith in legal proceedings.
Greens senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, said her party would be opposing the legislation in the Senate and urging cross-benchers to do the same.
“With the high levels of secrecy in detention centres, giving guards unchecked powers to use force is a recipe for further cover ups of abuse and misconduct” she said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The damning comments come after the release of the Moss review, which highlighted allegations of sexual and physical assault against asylum seekers, including children, at the Nauru centre.