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Amnesty International Report 1995 - Australia

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1995
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1995 - Australia, 1 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a9fb64.html [accessed 24 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
There was a continuing high incidence of deaths of Aboriginal prisoners in custody. Government policy on the detention of asylum-seekers failed to meet international standards.

In April the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that Tasmania's criminal law on homosexuality breached the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), in particular the right to privacy. However, the Tasmanian authorities maintained that the law would not be changed as it "reflects the opinion of the Tasmanian general public". The Australian Federal Government called for talks with the Tasmanian State Government about the ruling. In October the lower house of the Australian Federal parliament passed a law aimed at overruling the Tasmanian law prohibiting sex between consenting adult homosexuals in private.

In November 1993, the New South Wales State Government removed from the Summary Offences Act the penalty of imprisonment for using offensive language although it retained the possibility of imposing a fine. In its 1993 report entitled Australia: A criminal justice system weighted against Aboriginal people, Amnesty International had specifically called for a review of this Act which appeared to discriminate against Aboriginal people. Although they form only one per cent of the New South Wales population, Aboriginal people still accounted for more than 15 per cent of those sentenced to imprisonment, and about 25 per cent of juveniles in institutions under control orders.

Despite detailed recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADC) (see Amnesty International Report 1993), at least nine Aboriginal prisoners died in custody during 1994. In February the Australian Institute of Criminology reported that the rate of Aboriginal deaths in custody had continued at the same level as during the 10-year period 1980 to 1990 investigated by the RCIADC.

Official investigations into the deaths of Aboriginal prisoners Barry Raymond Turbane and Daniel Yock after alleged ill-treatment by the police (see Amnesty International Report 1994) found early in the year that no person could be prosecuted or blamed for their deaths. A report by the Queensland Criminal Justice Commission, contested by Daniel Yock's family, said his arrest was lawful and not racially motivated.

In the state of Victoria at least eight people were shot dead by police, who may have used excessive force. Four different investigations into the shootings were carried out by the state government and the police. A Task Force was appointed to monitor the implementation of the recommendations contained in the investigation reports. There were 22 fatal police shootings in Victoria between 1988 and 1995, five of which involved people with histories of mental illness.

Under the Migration Reform Act of 1992, asylum-seekers who arrived at the border without prior authorization to enter the country continued to be automatically detained. In November and December 1994, there was a dramatic increase in the number of asylum-seekers arriving by boat, mostly from southern China, bringing the annual total to 952. The majority of asylum-seekers were detained for the entire duration of the prolonged asylum procedure, which often took months.

Amnesty International called on the government to ensure that asylum-seekers were afforded rights which would enable them, on their own initiative, to challenge their detention in the courts, in accordance with international standards.

Amnesty International was concerned about the continuing high incidence of deaths in custody of Aboriginal prisoners and about the victims of police shootings in the state of Victoria. Amnesty International called for adequate investigations and for those responsible for abuses to be brought to justice.

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