High Court rules indefinite detention unlawful

November 9, 2023

The landmark High Court judgment, which ruled it is unlawful and unconstitutional for the Australian Government to detain people indefinitely in immigration detention, should mark the end of a brutal chapter in Australia’s history.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) NSW Co-Convenor, Ms Stephanie Lee said the decision is an historic judgment that corrects some two decades of injustice and should bolster the case for a federal Human Rights Act.

“A majority of judges in our nation’s highest court found that, when there is no real prospect of a non-resident’s removal from Australia, keeping them in detention, indefinitely, is unlawful,” Ms Lee said.

“This decision, which overturns a 20-year precedent, should see the immediate release of 92 people, and raise serious questions regarding the ongoing detention of 340 others.”

“The decision also brings into sharp focus, yet again, Australia’s outlier status as the only Western liberal democracy without a federal Human Rights Act or Bill of Rights.”

“We all deserve to join the citizens of the Western world in having our human rights articulated and protected in law.”

“A federal Human Rights Act would ensure that arbitrary detention is never a feature of Australia’s immigration system again.”

Ms Lee said permanently depriving people of their liberty is never a solution.

“Australia’s use of this practice breaches numerous fundamental human rights and has made us an outlier in comparable democracies.”

“Immigration detention should only be used for a fixed period of time, determined by a court, in exceptional circumstances and should never extend to children.”

“In the wake of yesterday’s decision, ALHR reiterates our longstanding calls for an end to offshore and onshore arbitrary immigration detention and for the immediate release of all people currently subject to indefinite detention,” said Ms Lee.

Contact: Michael Salmon, ALHR media manager: 0417 495 018