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UN censures Australia over refugee treatment

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Asylum seekers stand behind a fence in Oscar compound at Australia's Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea (file photo).

A United Nations report has slammed Australia for breaching the international convention against torture in its treatment of asylum seekers.

The independent report by UN's special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez, due to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, states that Canberra has failed to facilitate adequate detention conditions and demands a halt to detention of children.

The report also calls on the Australian government to put an end to the escalating violence on its Manus Island detention facility, which has been the focus of persisting protests, including hunger strikes and violence by inmates, many of whom reportedly facing indefinite detention.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott harshly rejected the UN report, saying, “Australians are sick of being lectured to by the United Nations,” further claiming that the conditions at its Manus Island detention facilities were “reasonable, under all the circumstances.”

"... Everyone's needs for food, for clothing, for shelter, for safety are being more than met"

The Australian immigration minister also censured the UN report as “complete rubbish.”

Meanwhile, the country’s Melbourne-based Human Rights Law Center has confirmed that Australia has violated the convention it signed years ago against torture.

"Now Australia is being found to breach that convention to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment," said the center’s legal advocacy director Daniel Webb.

"It is basically Australia being named and shamed on the world stage as a country that fails to comply with the convention against torture, and I think that ought to be a real wake-up call," Webb added.

Australia currently detains all asylum seekers who arrive by boat and holds them in offshore detention camps.

In February, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Australia to reconsider its refugee policy amid reports that Abott's government is facing a legal challenge for the harsh conditions at its overseas detention camps.


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