Australia slams door on UN jail inspector

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — United Nations inspectors have been blocked from accessing an Australian detention facility during a first anti-torture mission to the country, authorities said Thursday, adding that the visitors lacked “prior approval.”

UN inspectors — touring facilities under a voluntary agreement to prevent cruelty to detainees — were refused access to holding cells in a town outside the capital Canberra.

“They were refused access to the cells as they did not have prior approval,” a New South Wales state government spokesperson told AFP.

A government human rights watchdog condemned the lack of accountability on the part of local authorities.

Australia ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture in 2017, committing the country to reforms safeguarding detainees and making facilities subject to inspection.

Australia’s prisons, youth detention centers, and immigration compounds have been plagued by persistent allegations of human rights abuses, particularly against Aboriginal communities.

Lorraine Finlay, the federal government’s human rights commissioner, said the country’s most populous state of New South Wales had been dragging its feet on reforms.

“The UN visit has been met with resistance by the New South Wales government,” she told AFP.

“Already lagging in detention compliance, it has bought into the ‘anti-UN’ narrative by blocking the delegation from inspecting any New South Wales prisons.”

The neighboring state of Queensland said Thursday it would cooperate with inspectors, but would not allow them to visit inpatient units inside mental health facilities.

Australia has until January 2023 to meet its obligations. There are no penalties for missing the deadline, but Australia could be placed on a non-compliance list of countries with significant human rights concerns.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *