The United Nations Human Rights Committee has considered reports on Australia’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and released their concluding observations. The document includes findings and recommendations on how Australia is tracking in relation to civil and political rights and we’ve picked up on just four of these observations below.
Given Australia’s very recent election to the inter-governmental Human Rights Council, acknowledgment and action on these recommendations is critical. Australia’s three year Human Rights Council term begins on 1 January 2018 and gender equality and the human rights of Indigenous People are core to the Government’s Council agenda.
- Funding for Domestic and Family Violence Services
The Committee has drawn attention to the disproportionate rates of violence experienced by Indigenous women and women with disabilities and called on the Australian Government to provide victims with access to legal, medical and psychological assistance and sufficient, safe and adequately funded shelters.
- Protecting People Seeking Asylum
Australia’s non-refoulement obligations are undermined by the operation of legislation and policies pertaining to people seeking asylum and the grave inadequacy of standards and services in offshore detention centres. The Committee also highlighted the severe restrictions on access to and information about offshore detention which infringe on the ability of the Australian Human Rights Commission to monitor the facilities. To address these concerns, the Committee has recommended halting transfers of people seeking asylum to third party “regional processing countries” and securing the international non-refoulement principle in law and in practice.
- Addressing the Over-Incarceration of Indigenous People
Concern on the over-incarceration of Indigenous men, women and juveniles features prominently in the concluding observations. In particular, mandatory sentencing and imprisonment for fine defaults is identified as a key cause of over-incarceration to which the Committee has recommended revising mandatory sentencing laws and enhancing the use of non-custodial measures and diversionary programs. Additionally, the Committee has noted that access to justice is hindered by inadequate access to culturally appropriate legal assistance services and accordingly recommended that the Government ensures adequate, culturally appropriate and accessible legal services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Ending Marriage Discrimination
Resorting to a voluntary, non-binding postal survey to deal with marriage equality is described by the Committee “as not an acceptable decision-making method to uphold rights.” The Committee recommends Australia revise laws to ensure equal protection for LGBTI people, couples and families irrespective of the marriage survey outcomes.
Check out the Human Rights Committee’s full list of concerns and recommendations to bring the Australian Government into line with our ICCPR obligations.