Cases about prisoners' rights (5)

Blessington & Elliot v Australia (HRC, 2014)

Remedy's assessment: Unremedied

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.

Brough v Australia (HRC, 2006)

Remedy's assessment: Unremedied

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.

Cabal & Pasini v Australia (HRC, 2003)

Remedy's assessment: Partially remedied

Mexican brothers-in-law living in Australia were subject to arrest warrants in Mexico. They were remanded in custody while contesting extradition. The HRC found that locking the 2 men in a wire cage with floor area only big enough for a chair constituted a breach of prisoners’ right to humane and dignified treatment. The men were extradited before the HRC reached its Final Views. Australia has said it would ensure ‘a similar situation does not arise again’, but does not accept that Cabal and Pasini are entitled to compensation.

Read more on Cabal & Pasini v Australia.

Hicks v Australia (HRC, 2015)

Remedy's assessment: Unremedied

Australian man David Hicks was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and detained by the US at Guantánamo Bay. In 2007, he was tried by Military Commission and sentenced to 7 years’ jail. Under a prisoner transfer agreement, Hicks was moved to Australia, where he served 7 months of his sentence, the remainder being suspended. Hicks claims his military trial was unfair, his conviction unlawfully retrospective and his detention arbitrary.

The UN Human Rights Committee found that Australia imprisoning Mr Hicks for 7 months following his return to Australia amounted to arbitrary detention, but that no individual remedy was owed to Mr Hicks because Australia’s “actions were intended to benefit” him. Australia is nonetheless obliged to “prevent similar violations in the future.”

Read more on Hicks v Australia.

Noble v Australia (CRPD, 2016)

Remedy's assessment: Partially remedied

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.