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UN Rep Fears Australian Witnesses of Migrant Abuse Will Face Reprisal

Tom Devine Posted by Tom Devine.

Tom Devine is legal director of the Government Accountability Project, where he has worked to assist thousands of whistleblowers to come forward and has been involved in the all of the campaigns to pass or defend major whistleblower laws over the last two decades.


“This threat of reprisals with persons who would want to cooperate with me… is unacceptable.

Alternative Law Journal“This threat of reprisals with persons who would want to cooperate with me… is unacceptable.”

This is how the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crépeau, explained his decision to postpone his official visit to Australia to examine the situation of migrants and refugees being held in Australian and off-shore detention centers. There is much for the Special Rapporteur to be alarmed about, indeed. As GAP wrote in July, Australia’s Border Force Act does pose a real threat to those who would disclose information about abuses to anyone outside of the government. Presumably this includes Mr. Crépeau, an independent appointee of the UN Human Rights Council. While it is laudable that UN is sensitive to the risks whistleblowers and witnesses take in member states when they disclose human rights abuses there, the same standard must be applied when UN whistleblowers disclose abuses in-house.                                                                                                                                   (Photo Credit: Alternative Law Journal)

The case of Anders Kompass, the OHCHR whistleblower who is under investigation by the UN for disclosing the sexual abuse of children by non-UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, is but the most recent example of how the UN needs to be equally sensitive to this issue when it occurs in its own organization.

"Migrants / Human rights: Official visit to Australia postponed due to protection concern"

"GENEVA (25 September 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crépeau, today announced the postponement of his planned official visit to Australia due to the lack of full cooperation from the Government regarding protection concerns and access to detention centres.

The human rights expert was originally scheduled to visit the country -at the invitation of the Australian Government- from 27 September to 9 October 2015, to gather first-hand information about the situation of migrants and asylum seekers in the country and in Australian off-shore detention centres based in neighbouring Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

“In preparing for my visit, it came to my attention that the 2015 Border Force Act, which sanctions detention centre service-providers who disclose ‘protected information’ with a two-year court sentence, would have an impact on my visit as it serves to discourage people from fully disclosing information relevant to my mandate,” Mr. Crépeau explained.

“This threat of reprisals with persons who would want to cooperate with me on the occasion of this official visit is unacceptable,” he stressed. “The Act prevents me from fully and freely carrying out my duties during the visit, as required by the UN guidelines for independent experts carrying out their country visits.”   

The Special Rapporteur requested the Australian Government to provide a written guarantee that no one meeting with him during his visit would be at risk of any intimidation or sanctions under the Border Force Act.

“As the Australian Government was not prepared to give the written assurances required by the official terms of reference* for fact-finding missions by Special Rapporteurs, it was not possible for me to carry out the visit in my capacity as a UN independent expert,” he stated.

The terms of reference require, among other things, complete freedom of inquiry, access to all detention centres, and official assurances that no one who has been in contact with the Special Rapporteur will for this reason be subjected to judicial proceedings.

“Since March 2015, I have repeatedly requested that the Australian Government facilitate my access to its off-shore processing centres,” Mr. Crépeau said. “I was also extremely disappointed that I was unable to secure the cooperation needed to visit any off-shore centre, given the international human rights and humanitarian law concerns regarding them, plus the Australian Senate Inquiries on the off-shore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, which raised concerns and recommendations concerning these centres.”

The Special Rapporteur, who had been in discussion with the Australian Government since January 2015 to organize the country visit, including consultations in the past weeks, expressed his gratitude to all those involved in supporting the organization of this mission, in particular the representatives of civil society organizations.

(*) Read the Terms of reference for fact-finding missions by special rapporteurs/representatives of the UN Commission on human rights: www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/torture/rapporteur/docs/terms.doc

ENDS

Mr. François Crépeau (Canada) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in June 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council, for an initial period of three years. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Crépeau is also Full Professor at the Faculty of Law of McGill University, in Montréal, where he holds the Hans and Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law and is scientific director of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Migration/SRMigrants/Pages/SRMigrantsInde...

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Read the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CMW.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Australia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/ITIndex.aspx   
        
For more information and media requests, please contact:
Elizabeth Wabuge (+41 (0)22 917 9138 / [email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected])"

Author: 
Staff