Media Statement: Mostafa Azimitabar - It's not OK

Justice Michael Murphy found in favour of the Commonwealth after Mostafa Azimitabar, 37, launched a lawsuit about his detention inside two Melbourne hotels for 14 months in 2019 and 2020.

Justice Murphy said his ruling should not be “understood as my approving the immigration detention and what the applicant was required to endure”.

“I can only wonder at the lack of thought, indeed lack of care and humanity, in detaining a person with serious psychiatric and psychological problems in the hotels for 14 months,” he said.

“But the decision in this case does not turn on the humanity of the applicant’s detention; it is about whether the minister had the power under the act to approve the hotels as places of immigration detention and, therefore, to detain the applicant as he was.”

“I consider the minister had (and has) the power to do so.”

And therein lies the problem. UN special rapporteur on torture, Australian Alison Edwards, refers to Australia as an ‘outlier’ in our capacity to indefinitely detain innocent people in detention. Edwards said “without an end in sight, being held in legal limbo”, their treatment could begin to be classified as enduring degrading, inhumane or psychological torture.

Australia’s mandatory immigration detention of asylum seekers is a gross breach of human rights and decency. It is also a clear breach of Australia’s international obligations. Last year, embarrassingly, the planned visit by Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture's (SPT) visit to Australia had to be suspended after the SPT was restricted from accessing several areas where people were detained and weren’t given all requested documentation.

Even more embarrassing is the fact that Australia tried to say that what's happening on Nauru shouldn't be included in our review under the convention against torture, when clearly if we are going to take human beings offshore and detain them in conditions that amount to cruelty, that should be part of the investigation.

Inside the hotel’s used as jails for refugees, Australia and the world saw the stark reality of our nation’s approach to refugees. Mostafa Azimitabar has suffered immeasurable harm from Australia's detention policy and he deserves an apology and compensation.  

We have the UN special rapporteur on torture telling us these policies amount to torture, we have the SPT going home mid visit because we refuse to comply under our agreed obligations but most importantly, we have the testimony of people who have suffered immeasurable harm, like Mr Azimitabar at the hands of the Australian Government. These practices must end now.

Video statement from Mr Azimitabar here.