Crimes against humanity have been committed in Australia’s offshore immigration detention centres, a petition before the International Criminal Court has claimed.
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The submission, from the Global Legal Action Network and the Stanford International Human Rights Clinic, urged the court to investigate potential “crimes against humanity” committed against asylum seekers by “individuals and corporate actors” within the island prisons.
“As recent leaks reveal, these privatised facilities entail long-term detention in inhumane conditions, often including physical and sexual abuse of adults and children,” the network said in a statement.
It accused Australian governments of contracting out the running of facilities to private corporations in order to “avoid responsibility”.
“Nevertheless, that liability for international crimes can be traced not only to direct perpetrators on the ground, but also to public officials and corporate officers and directors,” the statement read.
The submission has been backed by Australian activist group GetUp!, which irritated immigration minister Peter Dutton.
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“Let this be a warning to people donating to GetUp! that you are being ripped off by these wacky causes,” a spokesperson for Dutton said this week.
The Australian government said last year that it would at some point shut down its detention centre on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, where 871 men are still detained.
This will be the fourth year of imprisonment for some detainees, most of whom will be interviewed and vetted this month by US officials as part of a resettlement deal brokered by Australia with the Obama administration.
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At Australia’s other offshore immigration centre, on the tiny Micronesian island of Nauru, there are still 372 people detained.
The Australian government has subjected asylum-seekers on Nauru to “egregious abuses” that amount to torture and flout international law, a report released last year by Amnesty International found.
The human rights group found refugees on Nauru had been denied medical treatment, suffered abuse and been subject to inhumane treatment.
Earlier this month, a heavily pregnant Kuwaiti refugee held in detention on Nauru had to wait several days to be flown to Australia after doctors said she was in a critical condition and needed an emergency C-section.
The 37-year-old was suffering from the potentially life-threatening condition of preeclampsia and had a large fibroid, or benign tumour, on the wall of her uterus.
Recently, detainees have had to watch their chances of finding a permanent home rise and fall in line with US president Donald Trump’s mood.
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“Everyone feels so hopeless and helpless,” an Iranian refugee detained on Manus Island told BuzzFeed News.