Australia: Alarming conditions in-country and in offshore detention centres

During its 75th session, on 15 and 16 November 2022, the Committee Against Torture considered Australia's sixth periodic report. The country rapporteurs were Ms. Ilvija Puce and Mr. Erdogan Iscan.

The country delegation was led by Simon Newnham, Deputy Secretary, Integrity and International Group, Australian Attorney-General’s Department. The review took place less than a month after the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) had decided to suspend its visit to Australia as it faced obstructions in carrying out its mandate under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), to which Australia is a party. Several places of detention could not be visited by the SPT, and relevant information and documentation were not provided by the authorities upon request.

While the CAT highlighted some positive developments, it also identified significant areas of concern. The concluding observations cover a wide range of important human rights issues. 

Key Recommendations:

- that the federal government ensure coherent and consistent implementation of the Convention across all state and territory jurisdictions

- immediately end the practice of solitary confinement for children.

- end the use of spit hoods in all circumstances across all jurisdictions.

- take all necessary measures to promptly establish the NPM network required under OPCAT, and provide the necessary assurances to allow the SPT to resume its visit to Australia.

- intensify efforts to expand the use of alternatives to closed immigration detention.

- increase efforts to address the overrepresentation of indigenous people in prisons.

- establish a national compensation scheme for survivors of human trafficking.

The Committee was concerned that detention remains compulsory under the migration law for all non-authorised arrivals in Australia, including children. The Committee experts expressed their concerns about the alarming material conditions of in-country and offshore detention centres, particularly on Christmas Island.

Indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected by imprisonment in Australia. They represent 30% of the detention population, whereas they make up only 3.8 % of the total population. The Committee asked about the causes of the high rates of indigenous persons in prison.

Another concern discussed was the low age of criminal responsibility in Australia, which is established by law at 10 years of age. In addition, according to reports, children deprived of liberty are subjected to verbal abuse, racist comments, and isolation.

Access all of the recommendation here.