Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Monday that his country was “sick of being lectured” by the United Nations over its immigration policies after the latter’s special rapporteur on torture said that the country’s treatment of asylum seekers violated the international convention against torture. In a new report, which is scheduled to be presented before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, the special rapporteur investigated allegations of torture and abuse across 68 countries.
“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,” Abbott reportedly said.
Under Australia’s current immigration policy, all asylum seekers who arrive by boat are detained in offshore camps in Manus Island and Nauru. Abbott’s government has also amended the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation, allowing it to adopt a policy of turning refugee boats around.
Juan Mendez, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on torture said, in the report, that the amendment “violates the CAT [Convention Against Torture] because it allows for the arbitrary detention and refugee determination at sea, without access to lawyers.”
He also raised concerns over the treatment of the asylum seekers detained in the processing centre in Manus Island, echoing the findings of a recent report by the Australian Human Rights Commission, which was also denounced by the government as a “blatantly partisan exercise.”
“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, as provided by articles 1 and 16 of the CAT,” the U.N. report said.
The report also addressed the “intimidation and ill-treatment of two asylum seekers” -- named in the report as Mr. A and Mr. B -- in the Manus Island processing centre.
“The Government of Australia, by failing to provide any additional information or details of the investigation into Mr. A and Mr. B’s allegations, has violated their right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” the report said.
However, Abbott, when asked about the conditions at the detention centre in Manus, reportedly said that “all basic needs” of the asylum seekers were being met.
“Everyone's needs for food, for clothing, for shelter, for safety are being more than met thanks to the good work of the Papua New Guinea government, the Australian government and the people who are running the centre,” he reportedly said during a media conference.
The U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is one of the most widely supported conventions in the world. Australia, which ratified the 31-year-old treaty in 1989, is legally bound by it.