A Cambodian man known as ‘A’ arrived in Australia by boat in 1989 with his wife and children. The family was detained for more than four years until the success of Mrs A’s refugee claim. The HRC found that Australia’s system of ‘indefinite and prolonged’ mandatory detention constitutes arbitrary detention. The family’s right to have their detention reviewed by a court, and their right to an effective remedy, were also violated. Australia rejected the Committee’s interpretation of the ICCPR and refused to compensate the A family
Read more on A v Australia.
An Iraqi-Kurd asylum seeker and his infant son were detained and his refugee claim was rejected. The HRC requested a stay of deportation; Australia complied. The HRC found the Babans’ detention was arbitrary and not subject to judicial review, and recommended compensation. They have not been compensated.
Read more on Baban v Australia.
A family of Hazara asylum seekers claiming to be from Afghanistan was detained on arrival in Australia. Australia determined that the Bakhtiyaris’ claim to be from Afghanistan was not credible; doubt about their origins undermined their refugee claim. The HRC requested a stay of deportation. In its Final Views, the HRC decided that the long-term detention of the family was arbitrary, beyond judicial review, and had not been ‘guided by the best interests of the children’. Further potential violations were found. It proposed that Australia should pay appropriate compensation for these violations. Australia deported the family to Pakistan in 2004, without compensation.
Read more on Bakhtiyari & Bakhtiyari v Australia.
Bronson Blessington and Matthew Elliot were children who committed violent crimes for which they were sentenced to life in prison without parole. The UN Human Rights Committee found that children should never be sentenced to life in prison without a realistic chance of release and recommended Australia reform its laws without delay to ensure the possibility of release is realistic and regularly considered. The two men ought to be given the benefit of the revised legislation and compensated for breaches of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Read more on Blessington & Elliot v Australia.
A 16-year-old boy, convicted of burglary and assault, was transferred to an adult prison after participating in a riot at a juvenile detention centre. He was subjected to solitary confinement, forced nakedness, forced anti-psychotic medication and 24-hour lighting. In view of Mr Brough’s additional vulnerability as an Indigenous Australian with a mild intellectual disability, the HRC found that he had been treated inhumanely and without the protection due to children, and should be compensated. He has not been compensated.
Read more on Brough v Australia.
Dr Campbell and her partner of 10 years, Ms A, had a daughter together and are both recognised as the child’s legal parents. Without access to marriage equality in Australia, the couple travelled to Canada to marry. They separated and Campbell assumed sole care of their daughter. They obtained a formal separation and division of property, but no formal proceedings concerning the custody and care of their daughter. Ms A stopped contributing to their mortgage and to child support.
Australia forbids child marriage, polygamous marriage and same-sex marriage, although these kinds of marriages are lawful in certain other countries. Australian law provides divorce proceedings for the former two types of marriage, but forbids same-sex couples who have married abroad from obtaining a divorce in Australia. Campbell alleged that this distinction constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, with difficulties and harms arising both from discrimination and denial of divorce.
The Committee found Australia in breach of article 26 of the ICCPR (equality before the law).
Read more on Campbell v Australia.
A make-up artist known as D, having participated in the production of pornography in Iran, suffered a beating and short imprisonment. Her husband, E, was also ‘repeatedly arrested and questioned regarding his wife’. They fled Iran with their children, and were detained on arrival in Australia. While Australia accepted that D faced the death penalty in Iran because of her activities, it did not accept that her claim fell under the Refugee Convention. The HRC requested a halt to the family’s deportation; Australia complied. The Committee found the family’s detention of more than 3 years was arbitrary and that Australia should provide an effective remedy, including compensation. The family was eventually granted humanitarian visas to remain in Australia, but has not been paid compensation.
Read more on D & E and their two children v Australia.
Thirty-six Tamils, including 3 children, plus a Rohingya man from Burma, applied for asylum in Australia and were detained. They were later accepted by Australia as refugees, but were not released from detention because ASIO determined that they represented an undisclosed security risk. The HRC issued repeated requests concerning the authors’ mental health, which led to no discernible improvement in their conditions. The HRC found the authors had suffered inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary detention, denial of habeas corpus and, for 5 of the authors, a denial of the right to be informed of the reasons for one’s arrest. It recommended the authors be released, given rehabilitation and compensation. Further, Australia ‘should review its migration legislation’ to respect the prohibitions on inhuman and degrading treatment and arbitrary detention. Thirty-two of the 37 authors remain in immigration detention. (The children and their parents were released in 2013).
Read more on FKAG et al v Australia.
An Iranian couple and their 3 sons migrated to Australia in 1994 on temporary visas and the following year a daughter was born. The family applied for permanent residency, which was refused owing to an undisclosed assessment by Australia’s domestic security agency, ASIO, concerning the father, Dr Leghaei.
Despite 16 years lawful residence in Australia, without ever being charged or warned for any reason, the secret security assessment against Dr Leghaei was upheld on appeal. Dr Leghaei’s wife and children all had permanent residency or citizenship, but his wife and 14yo daughter chose to accompany him when he was obliged to leave Australia in 2010.
The Committee found that Australia did not provide Dr Leghaei with “adequate and objective justification” for his expulsion and denied him “due process of law”. “Disrupting long-settled family life” by expelling the father of a minor child and forcing the family to choose whether to accompany him constitutes arbitrary interference with the family, in violation of articles 17 and 23(1).
Read more on Leghaei et al. v Australia.
MGC is a US national who lived in Australia as an adult for 15 years. He committed a series of offences involving fraud, pleaded guilty and was convicted. Because his prison sentence exceeded 12 months, his visa was cancelled and he was detained for 3.5 years prior to deportation. MGC, having an Australian son, alleged his prolonged detention and permanent deportation interfered with his family. He also alleged his detention was arbitrary. The HRC agreed his detention was arbitrary, but not that the interference with his family was arbitrary.
Read more on MGC v Australia.
The 9 authors of this communication – 6 Tamils, including one child, who fled the conflict in Sri Lanka in 2009 or shortly thereafter, plus 2 Burmese and a Kuwaiti man – arrived in Australia and were detained. All were accepted by Australia as refugees. However, they were not released from detention because ASIO determined they were an undisclosed security risk. The HRC found the authors suffered inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary detention and denial of habeas corpus, recommending they all be released, rehabilitated and compensated. Further, Australia ‘should review its migration legislation to ensure its conformity with the requirements of articles 7 and 9 of the Covenant’. Seven of the 9 authors remain in detention; none has been compensated or provided with rehabilitation services.
Read more on MMM et al v Australia.
Mr Madafferi, an Italian in Australia, overstayed his tourist visa. He came to the attention of Australian authorities when he was sentenced by an Italian court in absentia. In the meantime, he had married an Australian and fathered Australian children, but his application for a spouse visa was refused on character grounds and he was detained, pending deportation. Mr Madafferi developed a ‘stress disorder’ in detention and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for 6 months. The HRC requested a stay of deportation, which was initially refused. The Committee found that conditions in immigration detention were inhuman, and that there would be arbitrary interference with the family, in conjunction with treaty provisions protecting the family and children, if Mr Madafferi were deported. In 2005, his deportation order was overturned ‘on humanitarian grounds’. The HRC has deemed Australia’s response satisfactory.
Read more on Madafferi & Madafferi v Australia.
Indonesians Hendrick Winata and So Lan Li arrived in Australia in the 1980s and overstayed their visas, undetected. They had a son, who obtained Australian citizenship on his 10th birthday. The next day, his parents applied for refugee status. Their application was rejected and Immigration ordered their deportation. The HRC found that to deport Mr Winata and Ms Li would arbitrarily interfere with their family and breach Australia’s obligation to protect families and children. Australia rejected the Committee’s Views, but did not deport Mr Winata and Ms Li, who eventually obtained permanent residency in Australia.
Read more on Winata & Li v Australia.
Mr Zoltowski is a Polish-Australian who moved to Australia with his wife and their 2-year-old son. After nearly 3 years, the family returned to Poland, with the intention of permanent relocation. However, Mrs Zoltowski soon changed her mind, and took the boy to Australia without his father’s consent. The couple divorced, with Polish courts granting sole custody of the child to his father, and the Family Court of Western Australia granting sole custody to his mother.
Mr Zoltowski applied under the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction for the return of his son to Poland. Eighteen months later, when his first application was unsuccessful, he applied under the Hague Convention for access and custody. The WA Family Court granted Mr Zoltowski supervised access to his son in Australia, two-and-a-half years after he had first applied.
The UN Human Rights Committee found that Australia’s failure to guarantee personal relations and regular contact between Mr Zoltowski and his son constituted arbitrary interference with family life and violation of the right of families and children to protection. Also, Australia’s failure to deal expeditiously with Mr Zoltowski’s custody and access applications amount to a violation of his rights concerning fair hearings. An effective remedy would include ensuring regular contact between father and son and compensation for the violations of their rights. Australia must also act to prevent similar violations recurring.
Read more on Zoltowski v Australia.