THIS WEEK’S HUMAN RIGHTS NEWS

By Eva Csik and Bec Devitt
Shipping_in_Stormy_Seas

22 June 2012

Asylum seekers caught in treacherous conditions

A boat carrying approximately 200 asylum seekers was caught in rough conditions and capsized approximately 110 nautical miles from Indonesia.

The Hon. Jason Clare MP spoke about the search and rescue operation in a press conference this morning and stated that of the approximately 200 people on the vessel 110 have been rescued and are being transported to Christmas Island where they’ll receive medical care.

Border Protection Command has provided Mr Clare with a chronology of the events:

  • Tuesday, 19 June at about 10pm and then again on Wednesday at 1:30 am AMSA, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Centre received calls from a vessel indicating it was experiencing difficulties.
  • At 3:15pm on Wednesday, a Customs and Border Protection surveillance aircraft undergoing routine surveillance detected a vessel that was suspected to be the source of the distress calls. There were no visual signs of distress reported.
  • AMSA continued to receive calls from the vessel and were prepared to respond if assistance was requested.
  • On Thursday morning Border Protection Command received additional information that raised concerns of the boat’s safety.
  • On Thursday at approximately 1pm eastern standard time a Customs Border Protection Command surveillance flight went to locate the vessel.
  • The capsized vessel was detected on Thursday at 3pm and a request for assistance was issued to merchant vessels in the area.
  • A RAAF aircraft arrived at the scene at approximately 5pm and commenced dropping life rafts.
  • At approximately 7:20pm Navy patrol boats arrived at the location and began recovery operations.
  • Three aircraft provide ongoing aerial support and the search for survivors continues throughout today.

Prisoner files human rights complaint

A prisoner with a mental disability has lodged a complaint at the Australian Human Rights Commission stating that she had not received adequate mental health care. The woman is currently at the women’s prison in Adelaide where she is kept in a cell for 23 hours per day. She previously spent nine months at the Infirmary at Yatala prison where she was restrained to her bed for up to 20 hours per day.

Public advocate John Brayley, who lodged a formal complaint on the woman’s behalf said the treatment was inhumane. “Everyone has said the treatment she’s getting can’t be compatible with the human rights, particularly as she has a psychiatric disability and she needs clinical care, a different system of being looked after,” Mr Brayley said.

Police challenge unlawful use of taser ruling

New South Wales police are heading to the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling that an officer unlawfully tasered an Aboriginal man.

Footage which was presented in court, shows the man being tasered while on his knees and his hands behind his head. After a year in court the man was found not guilty of resisting arrest.

The magistrate, Geoff Dunlevy has said a “reasonable officer” would not have used a taser in the situation.

Police and welfare groups in disagreement over softening bail law

The Law Reform Commission has recommended changes in their review of the NSW Bail Act, including reversing the presumption against bail for all offences unless the person’s release would threaten the safety of others.

Police are urging the NSW government to oppose the recommendations to relax the state’s bail laws while community groups welcome the suggested changes.

The NSW Police Association president, Scott Weber, said the strong bail laws assisted in lowering crime. “Softening those laws to allow persons accused of serious and violent crimes to be released on bail would be a big step in the wrong direction,” Mr Weber said.

The chief executive of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Edward Santow said the Bail Act was harsh on the vulnerable people. Mr Santow reports how in the bail conditions of one of their homeless clients, charged with minor drug offences , it was stated he could not go within 1000 metres of King Cross which meant he could not access his support services.

Max Taylor, a former magistrate representing the Bail Reform Alliance, said the commission’s review “represents a real chance to rectify a great wrong that sees huge numbers of the poor, the young, the intellectually impaired, the drug affected, the homeless and the indigenous denied bail”.

 

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