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.
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.
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.