Ms Beasley is Deaf and uses Auslan to communicate. Summoned to perform jury duty, she was turned away because she requires an Auslan interpreter to communicate with hearing jurors and others in the courtroom. The Committee found this denial of a ‘reasonable accommodation’ to allow Ms Beasley to exercise her legal capacity on an equal basis was a violation of her rights to equality before the law (art 5(1)), to reasonable accommodation (art 5(3)), to equal access to information and communications (art 9(1)), to access to justice (art 13(1)), freedom of expression (art 21(b)) and to participate in the conduct of public affairs (art 29(b)).
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities agreed that reasonable accommodation would be to allow an Auslan interpreter to take an oath regarding confidentiality of jury deliberations.
Read more on Beasley v Australia.
A young man from central Australia was arrested for offences committed while suffering psychosis. He was deemed unfit to stand trial due to his intellectual impairment, but the court ordered that he remain in custody. He was held indefinitely in maximum security prison for over 7 years – far longer than any sentence that might have been imposed had he been tried and convicted – and he was, at times, held in solitary confinement, subjected to involuntary treatment and given ‘very limited or no access’ to mental health and disability services or rehabilitation programs.
The Committee found that Australia did not provide Mr Doolan with the accommodation and supports he needed to stand trial, to exercise legal capacity and access justice (art. 12(2), 12(3) & 13(1). Mr Doolan was deprived of his right to a fair trial and of the equal protection and benefit of the law (art. 5(1) & (2). Mr Doolan’s indefinite detention was arbitrary and his treatment, including solitary confinement, involuntary treatment, violence from other prisoners, denial of habilitation, rehabilitation, mental health and support services, was degrading, in violation of article 15.
Read more on Doolan v Australia.
A young man was arrested for an assault committed while he was apparently suffering psychosis. He was deemed unfit to stand trial due to his intellectual impairment, but the court ordered that he remain in custody. He was held indefinitely in maximum security prison for over 9 years – far longer than any sentence that might have been imposed had he been tried and convicted – and he was, at times, held in solitary confinement, subjected to involuntary treatment and given ‘very limited or no access’ to mental health and disability services or rehabilitation programs.
The Committee found that Australia did not provide Mr Leo with the support he needed to stand trial, to exercise legal capacity and access justice (art. 12(2), 12(3) & 13(1). Mr Leo was deprived of his right to a fair trial and of the equal protection and benefit of the law (art. 5(1) & (2). Making public mental health services conditional on people with disabilities living in an institution is discriminatory (art. 5). Australia justified Mr Leo’s arbitrary detention on the basis of his disability (art. 14(1)(b)) and his treatment was inhuman and degrading (art. 15).
Read more on Leo v Australia.
Mr Lockrey is Deaf and requires real-time steno-captioning in order to communicate. He was summoned to serve as a juror, but when he informed authorities he would need steno-captioning in order to serve as a juror, the NSW Sheriff refused, claiming that to have a captioner in the jury room would breach the confidentiality of jury deliberations.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities found that Australia had discriminated against Mr Lockrey by failing to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate him, noting that a captioner could take an oath of confidentiality in order to be present in the jury room. The Committee further found violations concerning Mr Lockrey’s right to accessibility, to express himself ‘in official interactions’ and to equal access to justice.
Read more on Lockrey v Australia.
A poor Indonesian fisherman was recruited to work as a cook on a boatload of people seeking asylum in Australia. Intercepted at sea, the author was detained by Australia for almost 5 months before being charged with people smuggling. He spent a further 16 months on remand before being sentenced to 5 years’ gaol with a 3-year non-parole period, a mandatory sentence required by Australian law.
The UN Human Rights Committee found that his first 5 months of detention without charge or trial was unjustified and arbitrary, in violation of ICCPR article 9(1). His right to be brought promptly before a judge (art. 9(3)) and his right to challenge without delay the lawfulness of his detention in court (art. 9(4)) were also violated.
Read more on Nasir v Australia.
A court decided an intellectually impaired teen facing criminal charges was unfit to plead; he was imprisoned indefinitely without trial. A psychologist determined that with appropriate assistance the author was capable of standing trial, but the charges were dropped owing to insufficient evidence. After 10 years in prison, the man was released on restrictive conditions of unlimited duration and with no avenue of appeal to have them lifted.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities found Mr Noble was denied a fair trial, equal protection under the law, and the support he required to exercise his legal capacity. The Committee found his disability was the ‘core cause’ of his deprivation of liberty, which it deemed arbitrary and a form of inhuman and degrading treatment.
In response, Australia admitted failures, but denied violating Mr Noble’s rights and declined to comply with any of the Committee’s recommendations.
Read more on Noble v Australia.
A court deciding competing native title claims by 2 First Nations for the same land arbitrarily refused to allow one party to table evidence and refused its request for adjournment. That party – the authors of this communication – was unrepresented, ineligible for legal aid, and misunderstood the law and facts of the proceedings. The court recognised the native title of the competing mob, extinguishing the authors’ rights to their Country, without any avenue for appeal. The authors, represented by an elder named Ailsa Roy, claim that losing their traditional lands means “the dissolution of their culture” and their destruction as a people.
The UN Human Rights Committee found violations of their rights to equality before the law and fair trial (art 14(1)); of their right to an effective remedy (art 2(3)) and of their cultural rights as a minority (art 27) read in the light of their right to self-determination (art 1) and of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Committee recommended, inter alia, a re-examination of the authors’ native title claim, ensuring their effective participation.
Read more on Roy v Australia.
As a teenage minor, Mr S.L. was tortured and forcibly recruited by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam during the civil war in Sri Lanka. He escaped by boat in 2012 and claimed refugee status in Australia, which disbelieved his claims, disallowed new information and evidence as it became available, and denied him legal aid and a protection visa.
The Committee Against Torture found that deporting Mr S.L. would risk refoulement, a breach of CAT article 3. It was critical of Australia's refugee assessment processes and concluded that Australia should reconsider Mr S.L.'s refugee claim and refrain from deporting him while his (fresh) application was considered. But the Committee did not issue interim measures at the outset, asking Australia not to deport him while his communication was before the Committee.
Read more on S.L. v Australia.