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Advance questions and statement to Australia

Advance questions:

  1. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, conditions facing asylum seekers at offshore processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea amount to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment as defined by CAT.  According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, prolonged mandatory detention of asylum seeker children causes them significant mental and physical illness and developmental delays. What steps, if any, is the Australian Government taking to introduce time limits and access to judicial oversight of detention so that mandatory detention only occurs when necessary, for a minimal period, and when reasonable and proportionate?
  2. According to reports, including from Australian Human Rights Commission, child offenders have sometimes been held in the same correctional centres as adults, all the way down to the age of 10. What steps if any, is the government taking in order to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility and ceasing of detention of children in adult facilities? Furthermore, what steps, if any, is the government taking in order to ensure that Australian governments review mandatory sentencing and laws that limit judicial discretion, and expand the use of non-custodial measures where appropriate?

Statement:

Norway welcomes the delegation from Australia, and commends Australian efforts in the promotion of human rights domestically and internationally. Norway appreciates the comprehensive and timely tabling of the Australian national report in preparation for this review. We also recognize the independent contribution to this hearing from the Australian Human Rights Commission and the multitude of other organisations who have presented their views and assessments in the process leading up to UPR.

While recognizing Australia’s important role in dealing with the global refugee crisis, Norway remains concerned about the reported procedures and conditions for asylum seekers, including those detained in offshore processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Furthermore, Norway is concerned that the reported enhanced screening procedures conducted at sea do not give asylum seekers a genuine opportunity to make a claim for protection and that proper consideration may not be given to Australia’s non-refoulement obligations. Norway recommends that asylum seekers’ claims are processed in accordance with the UN Refugee Convention and that detention occurs only when necessary, for a minimal period and that access to judicial oversight of detention is ensured.

Norway notes that indigenous peoples are still reported to experience discrimination and socio-economic disadvantage. Furthermore, a disproportionately high rate of incarceration of indigenous people remains a critical issue for Australia. Norway recommends that Australia adopt the recommendation by the UN Committee against Torture to review mandatory sentencing laws with a view to abolishing them.

Finally, we recommend Australia to begin a consultative process towards adoption of a National Action Plan on business and human rights.