Australia: UN inspectors barred from prison

Australia: UN inspectors barred from prison


UN inspectors have been denied access to an Australian detention center as part of a first anti-torture mission to the country, authorities said on Thursday, citing the lack of 'prior authorisation'.  

UN inspectors – who visit facilities as part of a voluntary agreement to prevent cruelty to inmates – have been denied access to cells detention in a town near the capital Canberra.

A government human rights watchdog has condemned the lack of transparency by local authorities. 

Australia ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in 2017, committing the country to reforms protecting detainees and subjecting facilities to inspections. 

Australia's prisons, youth detention centers and immigration compounds are routinely accused of human rights abuses , particularly against Aboriginal communities. 

Lorraine Finlay, the federal government's human rights commissioner, pointed out that New South Wales, the country's most populous state, had been slow to undertake reforms.  

“The UN visit was met with resistance from the New South Wales government,” she told AFP.  

“Already a laggard on compliance with detention rules, he embraced the 'anti-UN' rhetoric by preventing the delegation from inspecting all prisons in New South Wales.”

< p>The neighboring state of Queensland announced on Thursday that it would co-operate 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 exceeding this deadline, but the country could be placed on a list of non-compliant nations that raise significant human rights concerns. 

Inspectors could also cancel future visits – so far this has only happened in Rwanda, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

In recent years, a series of abuses have been recorded in prisons and detention centers for young people on the mainland while Australian detention centers for young people have been the subject of much criticism on the international scene.