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Incoming UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to rebuke Australia in maiden speech

Incoming UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to rebuke Australia in maiden speech

7 September 2014

In his maiden speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, will condemn Australia for violating the human rights of asylum seekers.

The High Commissioner will deliver the speech on Monday at 9:20am Geneva time. The speech describes Australia’s policies of mandatory offshore detention and boat turnbacks as producing “a chain of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and possible torture on return following return to home countries.”

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, said it was embarrassing Australia’s inhumane policies would be listed in the speech along side global human rights challenges like the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crises in Syria, Iraq and the Ukraine and the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

“In what will be his very first speech in this role at the United Nations, addressing the most serious human rights issues in the world right now, the new High Commissioner condemned Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. The speech goes to show the seriousness with which Australia’s flagrant breaches of international law are regarded on the world stage,” said Mr Webb.

Mr Webb said that both the current and former Governments’ unlawful treatment of asylum seekers had clearly damaged Australia’s international reputation – at a time when there are more displaced people in the world than since the end of the Second World War.

“At a time of unprecedented global need, successive Australian Governments have violated international law in selfish, short-sighted and politically motivated efforts to shift the problem. All that the Government’s cruel and unlawful deterrence policies have achieved is to give vulnerable people who lack options one less option and to denigrate Australia’s international standing in the process,” said Mr Webb.

Mr Webb said Australia should be focusing on providing safe, alternative pathways to protection.

An advance copy of the speech can be found here.

For further information, please contact Daniel Webb on 0437 278 961