10 Mar 2015

Mendez justifies UN report on Australia's asylum policies

3:58 pm on 10 March 2015

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture has responded to prime minister Tony Abbott's claim that Australians are sick of being lectured to by the UN over the treatment of asylum seekers detained abroad.

Asylum seekers during a hunger strike in Foxtrot Compound at the Manus Island detention centre.

Asylum seekers during a hunger strike in Foxtrot Compound at the Manus Island detention centre. Photo: AAP / Refugee Action Collective

The UN found that incidents at Australia's camp in Papua New Guinea were in breach of the Convention Against Torture.

Tony Abbott says the report would have more credibility if it had acknowledged his government's success in stopping people-smuggling.

Juan Mendez says the UN tries to treat all governments the same way and deal with specific obligations and standards in international law as objectively as it can.

Mr Mendez has told Fairfax media that he wished the Prime Minister had taken his views more seriously and engaged with more constructively.

He says he considers to be his duty to tell Australia that the policy of keeping children in detention needs to be corrected.

Meanwhile Daniel Webb, of the Human Rights Law Centre, says the report does damage to Australia's image overseas.

"Australia is breaching the convention against torture in a systematic way, and what we're doing is harming men, women and children who are seeking our protection and in the process what we're doing is also harming our very hard-earned international reputation."

The UN report also found asylum seekers were being held in dangerous and violent conditions on PNG's Manus Island, where 24-year-old Reza Barati was beaten to death last year.