back to top

The UN Human Rights Committee Has Slammed Australia On Manus And Same-Sex Marriage

The committee also criticised Australia's "repeated failure" to listen to the UN when it comes to human rights.

Posted on
Men sleeping in the now-closed Manus Island detention centre.

Men sleeping in the now-closed Manus Island detention centre.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has taken aim at Australia yet again over its offshore refugee detention centres, while blasting the same-sex marriage postal survey as an "unacceptable decision making method".

In a report issued on Friday based on hearings last month, the committee made several recommendations, including that Australia remedy its "repeated failure" to implement changes based on the committee's views on human rights.

The report specifically mentioned the Manus Island detention centre. The centre closed 10 days ago and had all essential services cut off, but over 500 refugees and asylum seekers remain and are refusing to leave, citing safety concerns about living in the Papua New Guinea community.

Footage taken by activist group GetUp from inside the centre showed squalid, dirty conditions, including moldy showers and toilets that no longer flush.

Refugees are being urged to move to new accommodation in the city of Lorengau; the committee said it was concerned about the closure of Manus without "adequate arrangements for long-term viable relocation solutions" for the men.

The committee recommended Australia end offshore detention immediately and take "all measures necessary" to protect the rights of the refugees and asylum seekers affected by the closure of those centres.

The report also criticised the opaque nature of Australia's offshore detention centres and flagged several concerns about conditions, including inadequate mental health services, safety, and instances of assault, sexual abuse, self-harm and suspicious deaths.

Men in the Manus Island centre have used wheelie bins for makeshift wells to supply water.

Men in the Manus Island centre have used wheelie bins for makeshift wells to supply water.

The committee was also scathing in its assessment of Australia's postal survey on same-sex marriage, saying it was "not an acceptable decision-making method" and that Australia should legalise same-sex marriage regardless of the result.

Last month, the committee warned Australia over the ban on same-sex marriage, saying the Marriage Act as it currently stands creates "discriminatory distortions" that amount to breaches of international human rights law.

The committee also addressed transgender and intersex rights, recommending Australia end irreversible surgeries on intersex infants and children that are not a medical necessity, and abolish the Family Court process transgender teens must go through in order to access cross-sex hormone medical treatment.

The report also addressed several issues of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights. It recommended a reparations scheme for victims of the Stolen Generation, and expressed concern about rates of Indigenous imprisonment.

"The committee is concerned about the significant overrepresentation of indigenous
men, women and juveniles in prisons, with indigenous adult prisoners making up 27% of the overall prison population as at 30 June 2016, and notes with concern that mandatory sentencing and imprisonment for fine defaults might contribute to such disproportionately high rates of their incarceration," the report said.

It recommended Australia revise laws around mandatory sentencing and laws that jail people who fail to pay fines, and make greater use of non-custodial sentencing options.

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.