The UN Human Rights Committee [official website] declared [press release] Thursday that Australia's indefinite detention of 46 recognized refugees on security grounds amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The refugees, who have been detained for at least two-and-a-half years, brought their complaints to the Committee when they were unable to challenge the legality of their detention in Australian courts. The Committee, composed of 18 independent human rights experts, found that the refugees' detention was arbitrary and violated Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text], which states that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention, based on the fact that the refugees were not told the reasons for the negative security assessment, preventing them from mounting an effective legal challenge to their detention. Seven of the refugees who filed complaints with the Committee have since been released.
Australia's laws and policies governing the treatment of migrants continue to raise human rights concerns. Spokespersons for the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) [official websites] had previously expressed concerns [JURIST report] that the reopening of offshore detention centers to process migrants and asylum-seekers may lead to indefinite detention and human rights violations. In November 2006 the High Court of Australia [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in two separate cases that a "holder of a temporary protection visa is not entitled to further protection in Australia if they are no longer in danger in the country from which they fled" and that the person may not remain a refugee, allowing the Australian government to repatriate those deemed no longer to be in danger. In 2005 the UNHCR criticized Australia [JURIST report] for its strict policy of detaining illegal immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, with illegal immigrants and asylum seekers spending years in remote detention camps while their applications for granting refugee status are assessed.