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Statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of Australia

By November 6, 2020No Comments

Earlier this morning, FPDN CEO Damian Griffis delivered a Statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of Australia (UPR) via weblink.

Damian spoke to the very serious concerns on the increasing incarceration of First Nations people with disability in Australian prisons and the lack of progress made to implement Australia’s previous UPR voluntary commitment to address the indefinite detention without conviction of people with disability in the criminal justice system, urging the UPR process to continue to raise this issue with the Australian government in the strongest possible terms with emphasis that Australia must implement the recommendations of Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Read Damian’s statement and recommendations to the UPR below.

Statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of Australia

Damian Griffis
6 November 2020

Good Morning,

By any measure, First Nations people with disability are some of the most
disadvantaged of all Australians. This is because they often face discrimination
based upon their indigeneity and/or disability. The disadvantage and discrimination
faced by First Nations people with disability relates to all facets of their lives,
including fundamental human rights of access to shelter and food security,
particularly for those First Nations people with disability living in regional and remote
Australia. First Nations people with disability also experience serious discrimination
but not excluded to access to education, employment, access to health services, and
access to justice.

A major area of very serious concern is the increasing incarceration of First Nations
people with disability in Australian prisons.

Little progress has been made to implement Australia’s previous UPR voluntary
commitment to address the indefinite detention without conviction of people with
disability in the criminal justice system.

Indefinite detention without conviction occurs when people with disability are
assessed as ‘unfit to stand trial’ or ‘not guilty by reason of mental impairment’. It is
disproportionately experienced by First Nations people with disability, with many
people detained for longer periods than the term that would have been imposed in
criminal convictions.

There has been a lack of action to repeal laws and withdraw policies and practices
that lead to indefinite detention. The recommendations from the Senate Inquiry into
indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment in Australia
remain unimplemented.
While a National Statement of Principles on this issue was tabled in 2016, they were
only endorsed by Australian governments (except South Australia) in August 2019,
and they have not been implemented in legislation, policy and procedures.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was extremely critical of
Australia’s lack of action to address this issue at its September 2019 review. The
Committee noted previous unimplemented recommendations from the Committee as
well as several individual communications on this issue where Australia was found to
breach the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Furthermore the recommendations of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal
Deaths in Custody remain unimplemented. We remain deeply concerned and
distressed that First Nations people continue to die in custody, and that many of
these people are First Nations people with disability. It is long past time for action
and we urge the UPR process to continue to raise this issue with the Australian
government in the strongest possible terms.

Recommendations

  • Australia must end the imprisonment of unconvicted people with disability.

  • Australia must enforce safeguards against indefinite forensic detention.

  • Australia must pay immediate and particular attention to the situation of First Nations people with disability with regard to indefinite detention.

  • Australia must implement the recommendations of the Inquiry into indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment in Australia.

  • Australia must implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.