Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Security detention is arbitrary and illegal

Over a decade ago, the New Zealand government imprisoned Ahmed Zaoui, an Algerian refugee, for two years without charge or trial, on the basis of a spurious and secret "security assessment" which the SIS later withdrew. Today, the UN UN human rights committee ruled that an identical scheme of detention in Australia is arbitrary violates international law:

Australia’s indefinite detention of refugees on secret security grounds is arbitrary and illegal, the UN has ruled, in the latest of 51 cases – the most of any country – before the human rights committee.

The government should offer compensation to those it incarcerated without charge for up to six years, the UN’s human rights committee said in its latest rebuke, which could harm Australia’s ambitions to secure a seat on the powerful UN human rights council.


The latest adjudication by the UN human rights committee relates to five refugees – one Iranian, three Sri Lankan Tamils and one Afghan Hazara – who were illegally detained between 2009 and 2015 because the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation had made an “adverse security assessment” against each of them.

They were recognised as refugees by Australia – “for whom return to their countries of origin was unsafe” the committee said – but were refused visas on security grounds.

But they were not allowed to know why they had been deemed security risks, nor were they permitted to see any of the evidence against them, or contest it. As a result, they were held in detention indefinitely, without facing charge or trial, or without any [recourse?] to the courts.

ASIO has since withdrawn its secret "security assessments" of the men, as it has with almost everybody it has detained in this manner. However, an unknown number - estimated at between six and ten, but the government won't even say how many - remain illegally in indefinite arbitrary detention on the basis of secret "evidence" they are legally forbidden to contest. Just another example of how Australia is the sort of country we shouldn't be friends with.

As for Zaoui, the New Zealand government never compensated him, and the Ministers who approved his detention (some of whom are still in Parliament, though in opposition) never apologised for his treatment. Maybe they should do something about that sometime?