THIS WEEKS HUMAN RIGHTS NEWS

By Eva Csik and Bec Devitt
collage

4 May 2012

Announcement of new Commonwealth Children’s Commissioner

The Commonwealth Attorney-General has announced that the Government will appoint a Children’s Commissioner to sit within the Australian Human Rights Commission. Commission president Catherine Branson has said that, “currently there is no coordinated approach to protecting children’s rights across Australia” and that there are many groups of young people at risk of falling though the gaps.  The new Commissioner will monitor whether Australia is meeting its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Attorney General Nicola Roxon said that the “Children’s Commissioner will ensure the voices of children and young people are heard in the development of Commonwealth policies and programs.”

Australia continues to rejects UN’S decision on deportation case

A Swedish man who was deported from Australia in 2006 is again in custody after committing a series of offences in Sweden.  Stefan Nystrom was deported from Australia on the basis that he had never become an Australian citizen after serving a series of prison sentences. Last year, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that the deportation was a violation of his human rights and that Australia had an obligation to help him return. His sister has reported that Mr Nystrom is homeless, unemployed, mentally ill and does not speak Swedish.  Despite this, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is standing by Nystom’s deportation and the previous government’s decision to reject the UNHCR’s decision that he should be repatriated.

Release of Victorian Budget

The Victorian Council of Social Services has described the release of Victoria’s budget on Tuesday as ‘a Mixed Bag for Victorian Families.’ The CEO of VCOSS has announced that, “in a tough revenue environment, today’s budget includes some smart decisions to invest in proven programs for vulnerable and abused children and young people” but has said that “there is too little investment in critical services such as public transport for families…” Other positives include investments in alcohol and drug programs and homeless support for families.

Nicola Roxon announces review of people smuggling convictions

24 people smuggling convictions will be reviewed following Australian Human Rights Commissioner Catherine Branson’s warning that children might have been prosecuted as adults. Ms Branson has said that it is ‘entirely possible’ the individuals were unaware of their precise age as they came from impoverished areas in Indonesia. Some of the individuals in question were jailed as adults after relying on the controversial method of identifying age based on wrist x-rays. Ms Branson said that “the Human Rights Commission was seeking to ensure that Australia is meeting its obligations under the Convention for the Rights of the Child.”

The National Congress of Australia’s First People to challenge intervention laws in domestic and international human rights forums

The National Congress of Australia’s First People have called for the federal government to test the Northern Territory Intervention laws for human rights violations. The National Congress Co-Chairs Jody Braun and Les Malezer said more indigenous people are calling the laws before Parliament to be scrapped and has called for an independent review of the laws to “ensure that they do not breach human rights standards and international obligations.”

Immigration Minister Bowen challenged to confront Sri Lanka on human rights abuse

Human Rights Watch has challenged Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to challenge Sri Lanka’s government over practices of torture and arbitrary detention of rejected asylum seekers who return to Sri Lanka during his visit to the country this week.  Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch, deputy director for Asia said that despite the end of the civil war in 2009, security forces continue to commit human rights abuses. Minister Bowen denied that the government was sending asylum seekers back to dangerous situations in Sri Lanka, stating that those returned to Sri Lanka are “not refugees who fled violence.” Mr Bowen is in Sri Lanka to discuss people smuggling and concern has been raised about the cooperation between Australia and Sri Lanka on this issue. Phil Lynch from the Human Rights Law Centre said that this is potentially putting the interests of the prevention of people smuggling ahead of the interests of ensuring that people with a legitimate claim for asylum can leave Sri Lanka.”

Police have made secret payouts to immigrant youths

Victoria Police have made secret payouts to immigrant youths who accused police of brutality and racism according to a report in the Age. Confidential settlements have been made between the police and five immigrant youths who claim they have been beaten, falsely imprisoned and racially abused by officers.  Tamar Hopkins, principal of the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre stated that the settlements were an example of the targeted police brutality against African youths. “Many police are using excessive and unlawful forces against ordinary Victorians and in particular minorities.”

5000 protesters call for greater protection and regulation against mining and coal seam gas operators

Five thousand people demonstrated outside the New South Wales Parliament on Tuesday 1st of May calling for the NSW government to do more to protect the state’s land and water from coal seam gas extraction and mining. The protestors including farmers, lawyers and winemakers raised concerns that their rights as landowners are being abused. Fiona Simpson, New South Wales Farmers President said that the government had betrayed the people. “We were told that they (the government) understood landholder’s rights were being eroded and we were told that they understood the importance of identifying and protecting our land and our water.”

Bikies, Union officials and social justice groups oppose anti-association bill in WA

A Western Australian bill which makes it illegal for people in a declared criminal organisation to associate with each other has been met with opposition by the United Motorcycle Council of WA and the Civil Liberties Council. The Western Australian government is expected to pass the Criminal Organisation Control Bill 2011(WA) through Parliament and the Attorney General said the legislation was extremely important to ensure the safety of all Western Australian’s. However the Civil Liberties Council’s David Pugh says the legislation is outdated and unjust, whilst the Socialist Alliance’s Alex Bainbridge said the bill challenges basic human rights. “What the bill is going to punish is is people or friends, who come in contact with, people who have committed no crime themselves, so that’s a fundamental injustice.”

 

SOMETHING ELSE

Reflection on the tragic rise of suicide among Indigenous peoples in Australia

 

BURIED VOICES

Their silent song will be heard no more

Inner voices that sang of loss and turmoil

Shadowing the inner brutal darkness

What am I here for, what am I doing

 

The guiding torch of the past extinguished

The path ahead no longer visible

Left to find direction in the moonless midnight

Who am I trying to please?

 

The blistering fires are now smothered

Yet the heat still burns the landscape

Hot embers burn through hearts and hands

There is something dreadfully wrong in our community, but what can we do?

 

As the final farewell is sung

Confusion and regret howl in response

Complete darkness just got darker

I should have followed him, I should never have let him go

 

 

 

 

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  • Cam

    Hi

    Couldn’t help noticing an error in your reporting on the Nystrom case – it was not the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who ruled that the deportation amounted to a violation of his human rights, but the Human Rights Committee (which lies within the portfolio of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, not the UNHCR). The UNHCR and the Human Rights Committee are entirely different bodies, with different functions, administering different international treaties – the mandate of the UNHCR relates to the Refugees Convention and Protocol (a narrow field of human rights law, which has nothing at all to do with Nystrom’s case), whereas the role of the Human Rights Committee is to monitor implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and to hear individual complaints made under the First Optional Protocol: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/index.htm

    Apologies if this seems pedantic, but might be worth correcting your report to avoid confusion for readers.

    Cheers
    CM

    • Andre Dao

      Hi Cam, thanks for pointing out the error. The report has been amended accordingly.