UN Suspends Anti-Torture Mission to Australia

The UN has suspended its anti-torture mission to Australia after inspectors were not permitted to visit several jails and detention facilities, according to the UN's Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture.

UN Suspends Anti-Torture Mission to Australia
Image credit: Matthew TenBruggencate / Unsplash

Facts

  • The UN has suspended its anti-torture mission to Australia after inspectors were not permitted to visit several jails and detention facilities, according to the UN's Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture.
  • The "drastic" decision, as characterized by lead inspector Aisha Muhammad, makes Australia the fourth country to have anti-torture inspectors suspend or postpone missions after Rwanda, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine.
  • Muhammad, a Supreme Court judge in the Maldives, claimed Australia was in "clear breach" of its international commitments and that their mandate at several jails and detention centers was "clearly not understood."
  • Australia is one of 91 signatories to the UN's "Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment" — committing to reforms to safeguard detainees and make facilities subject to inspection.
  • The four-person contingent arrived in Australia on Oct. 16 and planned to stay until Oct. 27, however, the delegation was denied entry to facilities in Queensland and New South Wales.
  • Australia has also delayed key international requirements, including creating an independent torture prevention body. A previous visit had been scheduled in 2020 but was postponed due to COVID.

Sources: Al Jazeera, France24, Al Mayadeen, CNN, ohchr, and Kake.

Narratives

  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by The Guardian. Resisting the UN team's mission poses the confusing question of why Australia would freely choose to ratify the framework and then continue to oppose its implementation. Tens of thousands of people are forcibly detained daily in Australia and have their human rights infringed upon — this is a concerning violation of international norms.
  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Australian Human Rights Commission. Australia is committed to upholding human rights and meeting UN compliance deadlines. Despite the blunt ending to this visit, there is hope that the inspection can ultimately resume. The perplexing actions of the New South Wales and Queensland governments don't represent Canberra's commitments to human rights.