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UN fires back at Tony Abbott

Getty.

Getty.

The UN has hit back at the Prime Minister after he rejected their report that found aspects of Australia’s asylum seeker policy breached the UN Convention Against Torture.

The report found that the Australian government failed to provide “adequate detention conditions” and “end the practice of detention of children” and had therefore violated the right for children “to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.

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Mr Abbott responded to the report by saying that “Australians are sick of being lectured to” by the international organisation.

But on Tuesday the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, told AM the UN was just doing its job and detention should not solely be used to discourage further boat arrivals.

“I’m sorry that he considers what we do lecturing, we don’t, we think it’s our role,” Mr Mendez said in reference to Mr Abbott’s comments.

“It is my mission, my duty, to point out when any country, including Australia, falls short of its obligations under international law.”

Professor Triggs came under fire from Abbott after the 'Forgotten Children' report.

Professor Triggs came under fire from Abbott after the ‘Forgotten Children’ report.

As a ratified signatory of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Australia has an international obligation to refugees in Australia’s care.

Mr Mendez said that while it should be commended that the Australian forces at high seas “behave in a humanitarian way” when helping or rescuing asylum seekers who are in peril, this does not hide the fact that asylum seekers in Australia’s care – including children – are in indefinite detention.

“I don’t think that keeping people in prolonged arbitrary detention on the basis only of the fact that they attempted an irregular entry is a good course of action,” Mr Mendez said.

On Monday Mr Abbott defended the government’s treatment of asylum seekers.

“The most humanitarian, the most decent, the most compassionate thing you can do is stop these boats because hundreds, we think about 1200 in fact, drowned at sea during the flourishing of the people smuggling trade under the former government,” Mr Abbott said on Monday.

Twitter responded to Mr Abbott’s comments on Monday and Tuesday, with the hashtag #IStandWithTheUN quickly trending.

This is the second time in just weeks that the Australian government’s asylum seeker policy has come under fire from human rights groups.

In February, the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs released a report that among other things found that there were children as young as 10 in detention who were at risk of suicide.

Mr Abbott used a similar line when attacking Professor Triggs’ report, saying that the Human Rights Commission should “be sending a note of congratulations to Scott Morrison” and thank the former immigration minister for helping “the human rights and the human flourishing of thousands of people”.

– with ABC

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