ICC asked to investigate Australia for 'crimes of humanity'
The International Criminal Court is being asked to investigate the Australian government's treatment of asylum seekers, particuarly crimes against humanity.
The International Criminal Court has been asked to investigate whether the Australian government has committed crimes of humanity over its treatment of asylum seekers.
In a letter to the ICC, Australian independent MP, Andrew Wilkie, alleges Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his 19 cabinet members have violated international law.
Mr Wilkie says Australia's asylum seeker policies breach international conventions on refugees and the rights of the child as well as the international covenant on civil and political rights.
His letter comes as Australia makes moves to transfer some refugees from Nauru to Cambodia after signing a resettlement agreement.
Human rights lawyer, Greg Barns, co-wrote the letter with Mr Wilkie, and told Amelia Langford that the asylum camps are far worse than any Australian prison.
GREG BARNS: The reason you have the International Criminal Court is to ensure that countries and countries within countries and people within countries uphold fundamental principles of international law and they include respect for human rights. That's why the ICC was established. It's there to be used by citizens and others who believe there are groups in the community who are being subject to a systematic attack and systematic human rights abuse and this case, we say, falls certainly within the statute which governs the International Criminal Court.
AMELIA LANGFORD: And what would you like to see the court do?
GB: What Mr Wilkie has asked for is what's called an Article 15 investigation - that is to send information to the prosecuting authorities of the ICC and asking them to launch an initial investigation. What happens after that if they decide they want to investigate further they then go to what's called a pre-trial chamber, that is a judicial chamber of the ICC, and then a formal investigation begins. So we are doing this very sensibly, we are doing this according to the protocols and according to the Rome Statute that governs the ICC and as I say at this point asking for that preliminary investigation by a prosecutor.
AL: And this is based on the conditions on Manus Island and Nauru?
GB: It is based on conditions [but] it is also based on the fact that children are being detained and the detention of children amounts to torture under any circumstances, particularly in relation to children who are extremely young. We have also had forcible deportation of people back to Afghanistan and Iraq, Sri Lanka and in circumstances where those people have then faced further persecution in those countries and so it is for a range of reasons that we say that the Abbott Government and particularly ministers, such as Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, should be investigated by the ICC.
AL: Okay. And what has made you and Mr Wilkie decide to take this action now?
GB: I think the point has been reached where there is just no movement within Australia on these issues. Australia has been subject to enormous international embarrassment, rightly so, and it remains unmoveable and that is why we say that the only way to uphold international law and to ensure Australia's compliance with international criminal law is to go to the ICC.
AL: And your thoughts on the likelihood of the ICC taking this on as an investigation?
GB: Certainly the feedback we have had and certainly my investigations as a lawyer would indicate I think there is some prospect of the prosecutors picking up this matter. Particularly by virtue of the fact that you do have findings from various United Nations bodies and by the Human Rights Commissioner in Australia very recently indicating that the Australian Government is keeping people and subjecting people to conditions and to measures which amount to gross abuses of human rights.
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