Australia’s human rights record ’embarrassing’, Amnesty International says

Key Points
  • A new Amnesty International report has described Australia’s human rights record as “embarrassing”.
  • The report criticised Australia’s record on First Nations justice, refugee rights and climate action.
  • On a global level, the report highlighted conflicts, violence, climate change, and the cost of living.
Australia’s human rights record has been criticised in a new report, which says while progress has been made, the country is failing to adequately support refugees, children, and First Nations people.
Amnesty International’s latest global report, released on Tuesday, also highlighted restrictions on the right to peaceful protest in several states, and Australia’s “failure to tackle the climate crisis” as areas of concern.
In previous years, . They were again identified in the 2022-2023 report.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remained over-represented in the adult prison population last year, and 21 First Nations people died in custody during the year, the report said.

First Nations Australians are also over-represented in youth detention, making up 6 per cent of the population aged 10 to 17, but 50 per cent of those detained.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remained over-represented in the adult prison population and youth detention, according to a new report from Amnesty International. Source: AAP

Amnesty International described Australia’s track record as “embarrassing”, and said the report had revealed a “double standard”.

“We welcome the principled stance that the Australian government has taken on a range of human rights abuses and encourage the Australian government to apply the same attention and standards to all human rights abuses including the over-representation of First Nations children and adults in the criminal justice system, and offshore processing of refugees and asylum seekers,” Amnesty International Australia national director Sam Klintworth said.

“While we’ve seen improvements in some areas such as the Justice Reinvestment package for First Nations communities and the federal government’s acceptance of New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees a year, we need only look at the horrific experiences of young people in youth detention, allegations of systemic abuse, the continued use of tools of torture like spithoods, and the hundreds of First Nations people who have died in custody to see that there are serious problems that require independent scrutiny.”

The report analyses the human rights situation in 156 countries and the changes that occurred, including in legislation and government policies, in each country over the past year.
The report also noted a landmark decision from the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which found Australia had by failing to adequately protect them from the impacts of climate change.
In their complaint to the United Nations, the Torres Strait Islanders said changes in weather patterns had harmed their livelihood, their culture, and their traditional way of life.
On the issue of climate action, Amnesty International said Australia’s Climate Change Act — which legislates for a 43 per cent emissions reduction below 2005 levels by 2030 — falls short of the figure needed to keep the rise in average global temperatures below 1.4C.

The report also criticised the ongoing practice of indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers offshore in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

What about the rest of the world?

The report examined human rights on a global level, researching issues in 156 countries around the world.
In addition to Australia, it said Indigenous peoples’ rights were violated when states failed to protect them from corporate or state expropriation of their lands in Brazil, Canada, Sweden, Tanzania, and Vietnam.
The report also highlighted new or renewed conflicts breaking out, along with existing conflicts and systemic violence continuing in places including Ukraine, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the West Bank, Myanmar, and more.

According to Amnesty International, violations of international humanitarian law led to “appalling” human tragedies, with international responses “inconsistent” with regard to the human rights impact of conflicts and the protection of people fleeing them.

Over the past year, government forces and armed groups have been responsible for violations of international humanitarian law, human rights abuses, and even , the report said.
The report also highlighted “accountability gaps” and said while the widespread condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “positive move”, western states and the United Nations Human Rights Council had failed to meaningfully address other conflicts.
Gender-based violence and violence against LGBTIQ+ people remain global issues, the report said, with sexual violence perpetrated in conflicts, peacetime, and domestic settings.
It also pointed to the overturning of and the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan as examples of critical rights being threatened and violated.

Amnesty International said its research also revealed evidence of the “increasingly severe harms” associated with Big Tech business models, along with the need for bolder action against climate change and environmental degradation.

A young child standing in rising water level outside a house

Amnesty International’s latest report highlights the impacts of climate change and rising sea levels. Source: AAP / Mick Tsikas

It also said the research underscored the “pressing need for bolder action” to address the climate crisis and environmental degradation.

The report said climate change had further contributed to poverty, malnutrition and displacement, and called on world leaders — particularly those from wealthy states — to urgently take steps to mitigate the climate crisis and keep global warming to under 1.5C.

In its analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amnesty International said wealthy nations had contributed to deepening inequality through “hoarding” vaccines and weakening multilateral redistribution systems.

Amnesty International secretary-general Agnès Callamard pointed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the core of which she said was the “universal recognition that all people have rights and fundamental freedoms”.
“While global power dynamics are in chaos, human rights cannot be lost in the fray,” she said.

“They should guide the world as it navigates an increasingly volatile and dangerous environment. We must not wait for the world to burn again.”

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