Federal Police must investigate govt treatment of offshore detainees

18th Oct 2016

The evidence of crimes committed against asylum seekers being held on Manus and Nauru by the Turnbull Government is compelling and should be investigated immediately by the Federal Police, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

The claims follow a major new report released today by Amnesty International alleging that the Australian government should be held accountable under international law for the deliberate and systematic torture of refugees on Nauru.

ALA spokesperson and barrister Greg Barns said that it was time for the Australian Federal Police to investigate the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment being experienced by refugees being held in offshore detention by the Australian Government. 

“There is serious and compelling evidence that the crime of torture and arbitrary deprivation of liberty has been, and is, being committed by our government and its offshore detention service providers on Manus and Nauru,” Mr Barns said.

“If people were treated in a similar manner on the Australian mainland there would be a national uproar and authorities would investigate immediately.”

“Today’s media reports only add weight to what the Australian Lawyers Alliance and others have been saying about the asylum seekers being held in offshore detention – Australia is responsible for these people and must ensure they are cared for according to the requirements of Australian law.”

“The reality is that Australia has a duty of care to asylum seekers in those detention centres,” said Mr Barns.

“This duty has been confirmed by courts in Australia and Papua New Guinea. It was Australia that put these people there, and it is Australia that pays the bills.”

Mr Barns said the evidence also suggested that crimes against humanity are being committed against asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus Island. He said penalties for such treatment included 25-year prison sentences.

“It is clear that refugees and asylum seekers – including children – are being arbitrarily detained. The infliction of severe mental pain on asylum seekers and arbitrary detention is widespread and systematic, suggesting crimes against humanity are being committed,” said Mr Barns.

“Under the Criminal Code, crimes against humanity are prohibited by sections 268.12 and 268.13, with penalties including prison sentences of up to 25 years.

“These crimes must be investigated, and if the evidence is as compelling as all of these reports suggest, members of the government should be prosecuted.

“Under the Code, however, prosecutions require the consent of the Commonwealth Attorney-General. Mr Brandis should not stand in the way of investigations and prosecutions. To do so would mean he too is complicit”, said Mr Barns.

Note: Mr Barns recently wrote about how Australian criminal law relates to the offshore detainee situation – please read the full article here:,9590#disqus_thread.

Tags: Asylum seekers and refugees