Media release: FRIDAY 6 November 2015 – Will Australia Cop a Kicking at the World Cup of Human Rights Next Week in Geneva?
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) is helping lead the hussle on the international playing field of human rights next Monday as Australia appears for its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. ALHR National Committee member Benedict Coyne will be attending the hearing from 3:00pm – 6:00pm in Geneva on Monday 9 November 2015 and will be available for media comment via telephone, email or Skype.
On his way to Geneva, Mr Coyne commented: “The UPR is the “World Cup” of Human Rights and after the Abbott Government’s embarrassing record of own goals of human rights violations, this international forum of accountability provides a great opportunity for Australia to improve its human rights record, especially in the context of our recent bids for the UN Human Rights Council and UN Security Council. This is the chance for Australia to take note of the significant problems in its human rights game plan and start kicking goals for humanity in the great stadium of modern civilisation.”
“The UPR is a relatively new and exciting innovation at the UN where every 4 years each of the 193 UN member countries appear for peer review for a serious track work assessment of their human rights fitness (or flatness) and an appraisal of their holistic capacity for, and ability to, kick wholesome goals for humanity.”
Mr Coyne continued: “Australia’s first UPR in January 2011, under the Rudd government, occurred during relatively brighter days for human rights including when there was no offshore processing and the Stolen Generations’ apology had been made. However, we still copped a kicking from the international community then for our abhorrent and deplorable treatment of indigenous peoples, asylum seekers, the homeless, the mentally ill and women and children.
“Fifty three countries pulled red cards on Australia and made 145 recommendations to clean up our act. This included Sweden, France, Canada, Timor Leste, the Ukraine and the Russian Federation recommending we implement a federal Human Rights Act to join with “team humanity” and properly honour our outstanding international legal obligations.
“Australia remains the only liberal democracy and common law legal system without a federal Human Rights Act or Bill of Rights. In a human rights context, this is like trying to play rugby or football without any rules. It makes no sense to have no legal protection for our basic human rights – they are the building blocks of our way of life.
“Four years down the track from our first UPR and the grass has grown unruly and thick at the wicket” says Benedict Coyne. “Australia’s human rights record has plummeted including through the resumption of offshore processing, wide ranging claims of physical, psychological and sexual abuse of women and children, condemnations of torture of asylum seekers (by the UN Special Rapporteur), multiple complaints to the International Criminal Court, plus plans to dispossess 150 remote Aboriginal Communities, amongst other things.”
ALHR is part of a contingent of NGOs which submitted a Joint Report to the UN Human Rights Council reflecting on the past four years and how Australia’s human rights record has demonstrably worsened in alarming ways. While over 90% of the 2011 recommendations were accepted in whole or in part by the Australian Government, remarkably only 10% have been fully implemented.
Mr Coyne concluded: “While Australia has a proud historic tradition of protecting and promoting human rights and contributing to their strengthening in other countries, we believe that more can be done and must be done at home in areas including refugee rights, indigenous rights and disability rights. We hope that greater engagement by Australia with the UN system will lead to a greater understanding within Australia of the need for stronger protections including a federal Human Rights Act. “
“Australia is the only country that we would regard as fully democratic which does not have legislation to ensure that the human rights that we have promised to respect and protect are indeed taken into account in every government action. We should protect our way of life by legally protecting our human rights. Our democracy will not be impaired. It will be strengthened.”
Benedict Coyne will be attending the hearing from 3:00pm – 6:00pm in Geneva on Monday 9 November 2015 and will be available for media comment via telephone, email or Skype from Sunday 8 November 2015 through next week.
Media Contact: Benedict Coyne, ALHR National Committee Member and Chair, national ALHR Human Rights Act Subcommittee
ALHR (Australian Lawyers for Human Rights) is a network of Australian lawyers active in practising and promoting awareness of international human rights standards in Australia. ALHR has a national membership of over 2,600 people, with active National, State and Territory committees.