Refugees, Detention and the United Nations

21 November 2012

Professor Ben Saul outlines his involvement in the case of two refugees in detention that has attracted the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, the United Nations has given Australia a month to show how it will ''ensure'' the mental and physical safety of two refugees, one of whom tried to commit suicide earlier this month.

The man, who tried to hang himself, has been in detention for three years and five months.

He had earlier told authorities he was concerned about the fate of his brother, who has been detained for almost four years, and who is reportedly suffering severe mental illness.

Both men have been given negative ASIO assessments and face being kept in detention indefinitely.

Professor Ben Saul took their case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in August 2011, along with 36 others.

At the time, Professor Saul urged the UN committee to ask Australia to release the detainees immediately to avoid them suffering ''irreparable [psychological] damage''.

The committee declined.

Professor Saul wrote to the committee again last week in the wake of the man's attempted suicide.

''The [detainees] regret that the United Nations is unable to protect their rights at a time when the State Party [Australia] has proven itself systematically incapable of ensuring their safety,'' Professor Saul wrote.

He said Australia's ''unnecessary infliction of trauma'' upon the group in detention obliged Australia to provide ''effective remedies for such treatment, including appropriate compensation''.

View the entire article - UN to Canberra: Please Explain - Sydney Morning Herald