New Zealand must speak out on Australia’s abysmal human rights record

9 November 2015, 15:13 UTC | Australia, New Zealand
© Robyn Stevenson

As Australia faces global scrutiny on its human rights record in Geneva today, Amnesty International is calling on New Zealand to speak out on its closest neighbours’ abysmal human rights record.

The New Zealand government has so far remained silent on last week’s damning Amnesty International report ‘By hook or by crook’ which provides evidence that Australian officials broke international law, engaged in people smuggling and endangered the lives of 65 men, women and children at sea.  

With Australia about to step up for its Universal Periodic Review – a four yearly analysis of every country's human rights record - now is the time for New Zealand step up and speak out, and send the message to Australia that human rights must be upheld.

"New Zealand can no longer stay silent on Australia’s refugee and asylum seeker policies.”

Meg de Ronde, Campaigns Director at Amnesty International New Zealand.

“Australia has an appalling track record for its policies around asylum seekers, and current news reports on the incidents at the detention centre on Christmas Island are not only deeply concerning, but are a prime example of why New Zealand can no longer stay silent on Australia’s refugee and asylum seeker policies,” said Meg de Ronde, Campaigns Director at Amnesty International New Zealand.

Some key recommendations that New Zealand can make to Australia include taking all children and their families and any other individuals at risk including survivors of torture and trauma, out of detention centres and putting an end to indefinite periods of detention by setting a maximum limit to the time an asylum seeker can spend in detention.

“New Zealand should also recommend that Australia improve its policies on asylum seekers by putting an end to offshore processing and giving asylum seekers the right to live in Australia while their claims are being processed,” said Meg de Ronde.

“The UPR is such an important way to call governments to account for poor performance on human rights and this is an opportunity for New Zealand to champion human rights in the region and show leadership in promoting a framework that offers real protection to those fleeing persecution.”

After little progress on human rights since its last UPR in 2011, this is a chance for the Australian government to renew its commitment to human rights and New Zealand should not stand by and allow the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers to be ignored.

The Universal Periodic Review is a process which reviews the human rights record of all 193 Member States of the United Nations providing an opportunity for all States to declare what action they have taken to improve human rights in their countries.

Amnesty International has also recommended that with the high rate of Indigenous youth in detention, Australia must accept some key recommendations around Indigenous Youth Justice including raising the age of criminal responsibility nation-wide from 10 years old to 12 years old.

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