UN accuses Australia of 'clear violation' of human rights obligations by delaying tours of detention facilities

New South Wales and Queensland have blocked access to some facilities with the NSW minister of corrections saying people can't just 'roam around in their spare time Get our morning and evening news emails, free apps or daily news podcasts The United Nations has suspended visits to facilities detention of Australia and accused the country of "clear breach" of its obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (Opcat).

The New South Wales government has denied inspectors entry to any facilities in the state and Queensland has blocked access to mental health wards. In a statement released late Sunday, the torture prevention subcommittee (SPT) announced it had suspended the visit following recurring problems with access and information gathering.

Sign up for our free morning newsletter and evening email to get your daily newsletter “The SPT delegation is prohibited from visiting some places people are being held, has difficulty making full visits at other locations, and is not provided with all the relevant information and documentation it requests,” the statement reads. that. continuing efforts to engage the authorities for problem solving, the SPT continues to be hampered in carrying out its mandate.

“As a result, SPT members feel that their 12-day visit, which begins on October 16 and will last until October 27, has been compromised in such a way that they have no other choice but to postpone it. ”

Queensland prison fence

NSW uses detainees as political pawns, critics say, after the country refused to let UN inspectors into detention facilities. The statement claimed there had been "clear violations by Australia" and noted there had been misunderstandings about the purpose of the visit.

"States parties have an obligation to receive SPT in their territory and allow it to carry out its mandate in full," said the head of the delegation, Aisha Shujune Muhammad.

“It is regrettable that a limited understanding of the SPT's mandate and a lack of cooperation stemming from internal disputes, particularly with respect to the states of Queensland and New South Wales, have compelled us to take this drastic action.

“This is not a decision the SPT takes lightly.”

Muhammad said it was "concerning that four years after ratification" it appears Australia "is not doing much to ensure consistent implementation of Opcat obligations". Last Tuesday, inspectors had been denied entry to the Queanbeyan facility.

"The whole role of our prison system is to keep people safe, protect us from the criminals we confine ourselves to every day," said NSW corrections minister Geoff Lee.

“This is not to let people just roam around in their spare time. [The UN] should go to Iran to look for human rights abuses there."

Guardian Australia revealed that Queensland would allow inspectors into state prisons but not access inpatient units where people ordered to undergo treatment or charged with crimes are held under state law.

Opcat was ratified by the federal government under former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2017. This is the first time inspectors have visited Australia.

Under its mandate, the SPT can make surprise visits to all detention facilities and conduct personal interviews with persons deprived of their liberty without witnesses.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull warned the New South Wales and Queensland governments to "think carefully about the international companies they retain".

“If a jurisdiction does not allow UN inspectors to visit a facility according to protocol, for whatever reason – the obvious question is, what do you have to hide?” he says.

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