: Australia fronts UN to defend human rights record

Australia fronts UN to defend human rights record

Ben Schokman
Human Rights

Australia faced a hard sell to defend its human rights record when it appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on 8 June 2011.

Australia’s delegation delivered its formal response to 145 recommendations made as part of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (‘UPR’) process, which reviews the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States.

Australia faced close scrutiny when it explained why it has rejected key recommendations from the international community to review its policies relating to the treatment of asylum seekers, the disadvantage and discrimination experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the lack of a Human Rights Act or Charter.

The Australian government has said it will include the UPR recommendations that it accepts into its National Human Rights Action Plan (‘Action Plan’), which is currently being developed, and will also deliver an ‘interim’ report on implementation of the recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in two years.

The Action Plan should be used to advance a number of important human rights initiatives such as: ensuring Australian jurisdictions have independent investigations of police-related deaths; expanding and enhancing federal equality laws; reducing violence against women; and ensuring proper and meaningful empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the UPR was a good opportunity to ‘showcase’ Australia’s strong human rights record. A true showcase would involve committing to tangible human rights improvements through practical legal reforms, including the introduction of a national Human Rights Act or Charter.

BEN SCHOKMAN works with the Human Rights Law Centre and DLA Piper.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 202
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