THIS WEEK’S HUMAN RIGHTS NEWS

By Bec Devitt and Eva Csik
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 25 May 2012


High Court Challenge to indefinite detention


Human rights lawyer David Manne has lodged a challenge in the High Court against the Australian governments policy of indefinite detention on the grounds of ASIO security assessments.  The case will argue that refugees should have the right to an independent review of their security assessments. This follows recommendations made in a parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s immigration system.


More then 50 refugees face indefinite detention in Australia due to adverse security assessments and the court case could have major ramifications for their situations. Those facing indefinite detention are left in legal limbo and according to David Manne the predicament is stark. “It’s like being sentenced to life imprisonment without even being charged, tried and convicted.”


Human Rights Commissioners re-appointed.


The Attorney General Nicola Roxonannounced on Friday that Elizabeth Broderick as Sex Discrimination Commissioner and Graeme Innes as Disability Discrimination Commissioner would be reappointed for another two years at the Human Rights Commission.  The Attorney General said the commissioners had been highly effective in strengthening human rights in our society, stating that both commissioners “dedication and passionate advocacy in protecting and promoting human rights is admirable.”


Amnesty International strongly criticizes Australia in world report


Amnesty International has released its annual world review of the state of human rights sharply criticizing Australia’s lack of leadership on human rights citing the Federal Government’s to “repackage failed policies of the past” including the continued federal intervention in the Northern Territories and the policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers.


National Director of Amnesty International, Claire Mallinson said “if the Australian Government continues to marginalise and disenfranchise Australia’s First Peoples, if we continue to make closed door deals and outsource our obligations to countries like Malaysia-what hope do we have of purporting to be a human rights leader in the Asia-Pacific region?”


Residents demand end to invasive surveillance


North Richmond public housing residents have demanded the removal of surveillance cameras, including one, which overlooks North Richmond Community Health Centre due to privacy concerns.


The cameras were set up as part of the State government and Police’s attempt to crack down on the drug trade in the area. The Victorian Department of Human Services was aware of concerns that some cameras overlooking the Health Centre could infringe upon patients privacy but said no formal request had been received.


Liberty Victoria President Spencer Zifcak said residents had a right to be concerned about their privacy, “if the cameras are located in a way that might enable people to be identified, then that’s a significant source of privacy concern.”


UN official calls for scrutiny of Northern Territory laws


Matilda Bogner, the regional representative for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on the federal government to subject its Stronger Future proposals to extend the intervention in the Northern Territory to scrutiny by a newly former parliamentary committee on human rights.


In January this year new laws passed Parliament requiring all government legislation to be scrutinised by a parliamentary committee on human rights and ensure that all proposals comply with Australia’s human rights obligations.


The Stronger Future proposals, which includes extending alcohol restrictions and income management for another 10 years is not subject to these requirements because the bills were introduced in the House of Representatives in November last year.


Ms Bogner said in a statement “putting it up for review by the parliamentary joint committee on human rights would be a strong signal that the government is committed to bringing it fully in line with its human rights obligations.”


Schools set to lose disability funding in NSW


A number of schools will lose disability funding under changes made by the NSW government. The changes, which begin in term three of the school year will see funding allocated based on the NAPLAN tests and the prevalence of autism in the community rather then on the basis of the needs of individual students with autism and learning difficulties.


Opposition Leader John Robertson said that whilst the changes were needed, no school should miss out on funding. We’ve been calling on the O’Farrell government to guarantee that no school will be worse off. What we now know with this program is that 270 schools are going to be worse off.”



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