Friday, February 10, 2017

Whitewashing Australian torture

Last year, horrific footage emerged of the systematic brutalisation and torture of children in Australia's youth detention centres. As a result, Australia has been forced to act by ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), which provides for regular independent inspection of places of detention. But in a nasty surprise, it won't be applied to Australia's offshore concentration camps:

Australia has promised to ratify an international treaty that will bring all its detention sites – including juvenile justice centres such as Don Dale and its onshore immigration detention centres – under independent scrutiny to stop abuses.

However, Australia’s offshore detention islands of Manus and Nauru – blighted by systemic human rights abuses – will be outside the remit of Australia’s independent oversight body because they are not on Australian territory.

Which is convenient, because those concentration camps constitute torture under international law. It's as if Assad invited the UN to inspect his prisons, but not his torture chambers. While it'll obviously help, refusing to allow oversight of the biggest abuses allows them to continue, and creates the perception that the UN is being used to whitewash Australian crimes against humanity.