November 29, 2020

Australia accused of torturing refugees on Nauru

The Australian government is responsible for the deliberate and systematic torture of refugees on Nauru and should be held accountable under international law, according to a major new report informed by unprecedented access to the secretive island.

Amnesty International said it had interviewed 62 refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, and more than a dozen current or former contract workers who delivered services on behalf of the Australian government, to compile a report it titled: Island of Despair.

The cache of evidence details allegations of recurrent self-harm and attempted suicide, children being hit by teachers and threatened with machetes by peers, deficient medical care and persecution akin to that which refugees had fled in their homelands.

Children playing near the Refugee Processing Centre on Nauru. Photo: Amnest)

Anna Neistat, Amnesty’s senior director of research who travelled to Nauru, said the report provided direct evidence of Australia’s responsibility for day-to-day decision-making, and that Australia should be held accountable for breaching the Convention Against Torture – with a remote possibility that individual government officials could be prosecuted under international law.

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The report concluded: “The government of Australia’s ‘processing’ of refugees and asylum-seekers on Nauru is a deliberate and systematic regime of neglect and cruelty, and amounts to torture under international law.”

Furthermore, Amnesty warned Australia’s policies had shifted the goalposts on what other countries considered to be acceptable treatment of refugees, and had “already harmed global standards on refugee protection”.

The Australian government is expected to respond to the report once it has been formally released on Monday night.

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