Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Justice for the Pacific solution?

For over a decade the Australian government has kidnapped refugees and rendered them to Pacific concentration camps to be mentally tortured in an effort to deter others. This use of torture as a tool of policy is a crime against humanity. And now, a group of human rights lawyers have petitioned the International Criminal Court to prosecute it:

Every Australian prime minister from John Howard onwards should be investigated for crimes against humanity in relation to the indefinite detention of asylum seekers, according to a group of international lawyers.

The group of seven British, American and Australian lawyers, which includes high-profile barrister and refugee advocate Julian Burnside, has petitioned the International Criminal Court to investigate the treatment of asylum seekers by successive governments, beginning with John Howard's.

A 52-page communique names Mr Howard, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, claiming they have knowingly breached the Rome Statute of the court.

"Those breaches involve the indefinite detention of asylum seekers who have committed no offence and regardless of their age or health or sex," the communique states. "The breaches also include forcible removal of asylum seekers to Pacific Island countries where they are detained and seriously mistreated, for the stated purpose of 'stopping the boats': that is, deterring people from seeking asylum in Australia."

It also names every Australian immigration minister back to the Howard era - and rightly so: they directed this policy, and they all need to be held accountable for it. As do their senior officials who planned and organised it, and the contractors who actually conducted the torture.

The question now is whether the ICC will investigate - or whether it proves the point of the African nations who are currently quitting it that its international law somehow applies only to brown people and never white ones.