Data retention legislation is awful, but the Minister Dutton’s proposed ‘Refugee Riot Act’ breaks all the international rules about human rights of anyone, not just refugees, CLA says.
Govt produces ‘worst legislation so far’
The government’s latest attempt to corral and curtail the freedoms of speech and association of refugees is probably the worst legislation introduced to the Australian Parliament so far under the Abbott coalition government, Civil Liberties Australia said today.
“Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has tabled in parliament a proposed law that is a disgrace,” CEO Bill Rowlings said. “What the law allows poorly-trained government contractors – virtually nightclub bouncers – to do to refugees is unconscionable.
“Minister Dutton formally claims the law is human rights compatible: that claim is an attempt to hoodwink the parliament and the people.
“Either he has not read the legislation under his name, or he is so poorly aware of people’s rights that he does not know that bashing, stunning and harassing anyone, including refugees, is not permitted under international human rights law.”
The proposed law, if passed, would give contract workers the right to inflict “degrading treatment” on refugees.
“That’s not Civil Liberties Australia’s comment: that’s what the parliament’s own Human Rights Committee said about the proposed law,” Mr Rowlings said. “They also questioned whether refugees’ ‘right to life’ is under threat from the Bill: that’s a polite way of saying people are possibly going to die at the hands of government contractors under this Bill.”
The new law – which CLA calls the Refugee Riot Act – would allow people trained to the standard of nightclub bouncers full and free rein to assault refugees in detention, provided the bouncers thought the use of force was “reasonable” in the circumstances and provided they thought they used “reasonable” force.
“Who gets to decide whether the assaults were ‘reasonable’? The people doing the bashing, the bouncers…not police, not the courts, not even the Immigration Department,” Mr Rowlings said.
“The sole determining factor is the personal ‘subjective judgement’ of the nightclub bouncers who will be the enforcers of the government’s latest Morrison/Dutton axis against refugees.
“As the explanatory memorandum to the Bill admits: ‘Any use of force pursuant to this Bill would be lawful’. That is, the nightclub bouncers could, if push came to heavy shove, get away with murder if the bouncer’s ‘subjective judgement’ allowed him or herself to use force in the particular circumstances.”
The Bill before parliament is the Migration Amendment (Maintaining Good Order of Immigration Detention Centres) Bill 2015. Civil Liberties Australia calls it the ‘Refugee Riot Act’.
Here is what a scathing Human Rights Committee of Parliament has said about the Bill:
– the Bill does not meet right to life requirements of international human rights law;
– the Bill, as drafted, appears to allow degrading treatment of detainees;
– The Bill tries to legislate away obligations to investigate and prosecute acts of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment;
– The Bill limits the right to humane treatment in detention, and appears not to provide for suitable training or monitoring of employees using force;
– The Bill limits detainees rights to freedom of peaceful assembly; and
– The Bill limits the rights of an effective remedy if unreasonable force is used, in that detainees are prevented from reasonable access to the courts or other appropriate tribunals.
– Human Rights Committee, Twentieth Report of the 44th Parliament, pp 15-31.
Clause 1.78 of the HR Committee’s report: The committee considers that the conferral of power on IDSP officers to use force in immigration detention facilities on the basis of their reasonable belief engages and limits the right to life. As set out above, the statement of compatibility has not, for the purposes of international human rights law, established that the measure is aimed at achieving a legitimate objective and, if so, whether it may be regarded as a proportionate means of achieving that objective.
Civil Liberties Australia has made a submission to the parliamentary committee investigating the Bill. The CLA submission should be posted on the committee’s website