Australia should speak up against war crimes: Navi Pillay

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 31 May 2011, 16:13 GMT]
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has said that Australia, that has ratified and committed to end impunity, has a responsibility to speak up and call for accountability to end impunity for serious crimes in the region. Ms. Pillay was responding to the question by Dr. Sam Pari of Australian Tamil Congress at at panel discussion held at Human Rights 2011 event on 23 May in Sydney. Citing the response by Ms. Navi Pillai, a Greens MP, in her official blog said Australian Government's silence during and since the 2009 war adds to the pain the Tamil community is enduring.

"With war crimes and human rights violations forcing thousands of Tamils to jump on boats and come to Australia seeking asylum, should Australia be more vocal on the issue of war crimes?,” was the question raised by Dr. Sam Pari at the Human Rights 2011 event.

"In this region Australia has a crucial responsibility to urge respect for rule of law and urge a end to impunity for serious crimes. Australia has ratified the Rome Statute which set up the ICC and in the preamble to the Rome Statute is that there has to be a determination to end impunity for serious crimes. So on one level you have countries like Australia ratifying and committing to ending impunity. There is a responsibility then for it to speak up and call for accountability in this region,” Ms. Navi Pillay said.

Ms. Navi Pillai, on her six-day mission to Australia showed special interest in meeting the representatives of indigenous people and migrants.

“In my discussions with Aboriginal people, I could sense the deep hurt and pain that they have suffered because of government policies that are imposed on them,” Navi Pillai said in her address.

Some excerpts from her opening remark follow:

“During my visit to immigration detention centres in Darwin, I saw the grim despondency of asylum seekers, waiting for months, or in some cases well over a year, to be released. These people, who arrive with such relief and hope after experiencing trauma in their home countries, should not be treated in this way.”

“I heard from Ministers Bowen and Rudd about the proposed bilateral agreement between Australia and Malaysia for the processing of asylum seekers and resettlement of refugees. I recognise the need to combat people smuggling in the region, but stressed that bilateral arrangements for asylum seekers must have adequate safeguards to ensure compliance with international human rights standards.”

“These include ensuring that there is no real risk of breach of the principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Convention against Torture – which Australia has ratified, but Malaysia has not. In my experience, assurances of compliance with these standards are not sufficient, and should be legally entrenched.”

“The consequence of the constant political refrain that Australia is being “flooded” by people who are ‘queue jumpers’ has resulted in a stigmatization of an entire group of people, irrespective of where they have come from or what dangers they may have fled. I urge the leaders of all Australia’s political parties to take a principled and courageous stand to break this ingrained political habit of demonizing asylum-seekers. ”

“During my meetings with migrant representatives and foreign students, I also heard first-hand how different groups face discrimination and racism in the community, particularly associated with Islamophobia and fears of terrorism.”

“Australia has such strong foundations, with functioning institutions that have checks and balances and a proud tradition of egalitarianism. It is therefore disappointing to find that the system is failing to protect certain groups. The issues of indigenous disadvantage and the treatment of asylum seekers need to be tackled through a human rights based approach, not driven by short term electoral advantage and political goals.”


External Links:
greens.org.au: Lee Rhiannon's Blog

 

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