'Sick of being lectured': Australian PM blasts UN report on torture convention breaches
The document presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, was prepared by Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. The report addresses concerns about an asylum seekers’ detention facility on Manus Island near Papua New Guinea, and alleged violations of recently amended maritime laws.
The report accuses Australia of detaining children, and says the proposed deportation of groups of Sri Lankan and Tamil asylum seekers is escalating violence in Australia’s offshore processing centers. This breaches Australia's international obligations under the Convention Against Torture, designed to prevent inhuman and degrading treatment.
A violent outbreak at the detention center on Manus Island in 2014 left an Iranian refugee dead and sparked protests in mainland Australia.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has rebuffed the UN report altogether, saying that on the contrary Australia has managed to put an end to a large number of asylum seekers dying out at sea.
“I really think Australians are sick of being lectured to by the United Nations, particularly given that we have stopped the boats, and by stopping the boats, we have ended the deaths at sea,” Abbott said on Monday as cited by the Sydney Morning Herald.
Abbot believes the best thing the Australian government can do to “uphold the universal decencies of mankind" was to prevent the so-called ‘boat people’ from arriving in Australia’s “offshores”.
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“And that's exactly what we've done,” Abbot told reporters at Houghton Wines in the Swan Valley, Perth, when asked about the UN report.
“The most humanitarian, the most decent, the most compassionate thing you can do is stop these boats because hundreds, we think about 1,200 in fact, drowned at sea during the flourishing of the people smuggling trade under the former government.”
The prime minister also noted the needs of all asylum seekers on Manus Island “for food, for clothing, for shelter, for safety are being more than met.”
“I think the UN would be much better served by giving credit to the Australian government for what has been achieved in terms of stopping the boats," Abbott said.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton backed up the PM’s stance, by saying on Monday that “Australia is meeting all its international obligations and with other regional nations provides a range of services to people who have attempted to enter Australia illegally.”
Australia’s government "rejects the views of the special rapporteur that the treatment of illegal maritime arrivals in detention breaches international conventions,” Dutton added.
Last month, Tony Abbott lashed out at Professor Gillian Triggs, the president of Australian Human Rights Commission, for presenting a report exposing high rates of sexual and physical abuse of children in detention facilities. The PM also branded the report as a ‘transparent stitch-up,’ while Attorney-General George Brandis demanded Professor Triggs’ resignation.