Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture : Australia. 11/21/2000.
A/56/44,paras.47-53. (Concluding Observations/Comments)

Convention Abbreviation: CAT
COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
Twenty-fifth session
13-24 November 2000

Australia

47. The Committee considered the second report of Australia (CAT/C/25/Add.11) at its 444th, 447th, and 451st meetings, on 16, 17 and 21 November 2000 (CAT/C/SR.444, 447 and 451), and adopted the following conclusions and recommendations.

A. Introduction

48. The Committee notes that the report was submitted with a delay of six years and was said to be the combined second and third periodic reports, the latter of which was due in 1998. The Committee welcomes the constructive dialogue with the delegation of Australia and greatly appreciates the lengthy and detailed information submitted both orally and in writing, which not only updated the report, which included information only until 1997, but also contained specific reference to each component part of the Australian federation, referred to factors and difficulties affecting the federation and gave answers to nearly all specific cases referred to it.

49. The Committee wishes to express its appreciation for the additional information submitted in 1992 (CAT/C/9/Add.11) in response to questions asked during the examination of the initial report of Australia.

50. The Committee also expresses its appreciation for the contribution of non-governmental organizations and statutory agencies to its work in considering the State party’s report.


B. Positive aspects

51. The Committee particularly welcomes the following:

(a) The declarations made by Australia on 28 January 1993, under articles 21 and 22 of the Convention, and its ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

(b) The many investigations and inquiries that have been undertaken by, inter alia, Royal Commissions of inquiry, parliamentary committees, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, ombudspersons and other ad hoc bodies, at both the federal and state levels, on matters of relevance to the implementation of the Convention;

(c) The consultations with national non-governmental organizations that took place during the preparation of the report;

(d) The information contained in the report about the expansion of the rehabilitation services available for victims of torture, and the contributions of the State party to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture;

(e) The measures taken to address the historical social and economic underpinnings of the disadvantage experienced by the indigenous population;

(f) The establishment of the independent statutory office of the Inspector of Custodial Services.
C. Subjects of concern

52. The Committee expresses its concern about the following:

(a) The apparent lack of appropriate review mechanisms for ministerial decisions in respect of cases coming under article 3 of the Convention;

(b) The use by prison authorities of instruments of physical restraint that may cause unnecessary pain and humiliation;

(c) Allegations of excessive use of force or degrading treatment by police forces or prison guards;

(d) Allegations of intimidation and adverse consequences faced by inmates who complain about their treatment in prisons;

(e) Legislation imposing mandatory minimum sentences, which has allegedly had a discriminatory effect regarding the indigenous population (including women and juveniles), who are over-represented in statistics for the criminal justice system.
D. Recommendations

53. The Committee recommends that:

(a) The State party ensure that all States and territories are at all times in compliance with its obligations under the Convention;

(b) The State party consider the desirability of providing a mechanism for independent review of ministerial decisions in respect of cases coming under article 3 of the Convention;

(c) The State party continue its education and information efforts for law enforcement personnel regarding the prohibition against torture and further improve its efforts in training, especially of police, prison officers and prison medical personnel;

(d) The State party keep under constant review the use of instruments of restraint that may cause unnecessary pain and humiliation, and ensure that their use is appropriately recorded;

(e) The State party ensure that complainants are protected against intimidation and adverse consequences as a result of their complaint;

(f) The State party continue its efforts to reduce overcrowding in prisons;

(g) The State party continue its efforts to address the socio-economic disadvantage that, inter alia, leads to a disproportionate number of indigenous Australians coming into contact with the criminal justice system;

(h) The State party keep under careful review legislation imposing mandatory minimum sentences, to ensure that it does not raise questions of compliance with its international obligations under the Convention and other relevant international instruments, particularly with regard to the possible adverse effect upon disadvantaged groups;

(i) The State party submit its next periodic report by November 2004, and ensure that it contains information on the implementation of the present recommendations and disaggregated statistics.

1996-2001
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, Switzerland