Australia can no longer deny that its treatment of asylum seekers does not constitute torture

Yesterday we focused on the soft use of language by President Obama in relation to the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques, which are now understood to constitute torture. Today the theme is language still, but of a different kind as we welcome the comments of Dr Peter Young on the conditions asylum seekers face in Australian detention centres.

Dr Peter Young, former medical director for mental health at IHMS, gives evidence at the inquiry into children in immigration detention last week. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP (used courtesy of Guardian online)

Dr Peter Young, former medical director for mental health at IHMS, gives evidence at the inquiry into children in immigration detention last week. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP (used courtesy of Guardian online)

Human rights organisations across the world congratulate Dr Young, former director of IHMS mental health services, the company responsible for healthcare in all of Australia’s detention centres, for his boldness and honesty in confronting what many have suspected for a long time: treatment in Australia’s asylum seeker detention centres is akin to torture.

Here is the most important quote from Dr Young:

“If we take the definition of torture to be the deliberate harming of people in order to coerce them into a desired outcome, I think it does fulfil that definition”

We at World Without Torture have written much in he past about Australia’s dreadful treatment of asylum seekers, not just in the detention centres but in the heavy-handed Australian approach of simply turning away all asylum seekers to their country of origin, regardless of the potential human rights abuses the man, woman or child faces in their homeland.

We, and many other organisations, have written extensively on the topic, calling for compassion towards asylum seekers, calling for Australia to uphold the rights or asylum seekers – particularly as a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Australia’s government should give fair and proper consideration, screening and treatment to anyone seeking asylum, to identify potential trauma and suffering which forced them to take the decision to leave their country. But even more basic than that, to assure basic protection of human rights, correct and fair treatment of asylum seekers is a must.

Thousands join a pro-asylum rally in Melbourne, Australia (courtesy of Ali Martin - used under Creative Commons Licence, Flickr)

Thousands join a pro-asylum rally in Melbourne, Australia (courtesy of Ali Martin – used under Creative Commons Licence, Flickr)

Yet no one has ever spoken out that these horrifying conditions exist – politicians have denied there is torture and ill-treatment and much of the calls for prohibition of this treatment have been based on stories from detainees in the centres and observations made from external human rights groups.

But Dr Young’s bold admission – an admission that comes from direct experience in the detention centres – is a damning one, turning the spotlight directly onto Australia’s potential ignorance of its human rights obligations for the first time in this troubling story of continued torture of the most vulnerable people.

Now let’s hope politicians take note, not just of the honesty and openness, but of what must change right now to end this ill-treatment and ensure victims of this torture are able to access rehabilitation.

Advertisements

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s