Subject: [fem-women2000 511] URGENT Contact media re Australian rejection of Human Rights.
From: lalamaziwa <email@example.com>
Date: Sun, 03 Sep 2000 15:38:56 +0900
Forwarded by lalamaziwa <firstname.lastname@example.org> ---------------- Original message follows ---------------- From: "Tuckway" <Tuckway@nsw.bigpond.net.au> Date: Sun, 3 Sep 2000 17:24:28 +1000 Subject: [apwomen2000] URGENT Contact media re Australian rejection of Human Rights. -- THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT HAS MOUNTED A VICIOUS ATTACK ON OUR INVOLVEMENT IN THE UN TREATY SYSTEM, AND THE DOWN GRADING OF THE ROLE OF NGO'S IN THE UN SYSTEM. WE NEED THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIA TO RAISE THESE ISSUES AND TOO\ MAKE THE GOVERNMENT UNDERSTAND THAT WHAT THEY PROPOSE WILL NOT ONLY HARM AUSTRALIANS, BUT WILL EFFECTIVELY GIVE A FREE HAND TO OTHER REPRESSIVE GOVERNMENTS TO DO THE SAME WITH SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES. FOR DETAILS SEE BELOW. The Australian National Committee on Refugee Women have issued the following statement and put forward an URGENT call to all to our friends across the world to contact their media contacts who will be attending the Millennium Forum and the Sydney Olympics to request journalists to ask the following questions: 1. Why is the Australian Government trying to downgrade our relationship with the United Nations Treaty System? 2. Why is the Australian Government afraid to have scrutineers from the Human Rights Commission visit Australia? 3. Why is the Australian Government refusing to sign the Optional Protocol to CEDAW? 4. Why is the Australian Government putting asylum seekers, adults and children, into prison-like detention centres contrary to international covenants? 5. Why is the Australian Government not responding to critics from various UN committees over their treatment of our indigenous community? Thank you Eileen Pittaway & Linda Bartolomei on behalf of the ANCORW Board GOVERNMENT ATTACKS THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF HUMAN RIGHTS FOR REFUGEES, WOMEN AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLE. PLEASE ADD YOU VOICE TO STOP THIS EROSION OF UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMANITARIAN LAW, BOTH IN AUSTRALIA AND INTERNATIONALLY. STATEMENT BY THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE ON REFUGEE WOMEN (ANCORW ) ON THE POSITION TAKEN BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WITH REFERENCE TO IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF UNITED NATIONS COMMITTEES. The Board of ANCORW would like to express its deep concern on the position taken by the Federal Government with reference to improving the effectiveness of United Nations committees, ( joint news release of August 29 2000 http://www.dfat.gov.au). In particular we would like to comment on the implications of that document for refugees and asylum seekers, both within and external to Australia. In their scarcely veiled attack on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the government have confused Human Rights Conventions and the committee process with Humanitarian Law. The measures that they propose can only be interpreted as strategies to restrict the movement of people who can no longer stay in their country of origin due to a well founded fear of persecution. In a changing world, the nature of forced migration and people movement has altered dramatically. The effects of globalisation on the developing world and the changing nature of warfare, which involves civilians, women and children more than ever before, has meant that an increasing number of people are in need of international protection. The very nature of "refugees" is changing but it would appear that the reforms suggested by the Federal Government, rather addressing these changes in a humanitarian framework aimed at finding a global answer to the problem, are aimed at puniti! ve measures more designed to proIt would appear that Australia is putting its national interest above international law. The response from government is complex and crosses a number of issues. There is disquiet amongst refugee advocates on Australia's mandatory detention of asylum seekers and the conditions experienced by asylum seekers whilst in custody. Australia has already refused representatives of the Human Rights Committee access to Australia to visit these facilities. An important part of their proposed measures and reforms is to restrict visits to Australia by treaty bodies and special rapporteurs unless there are 'compelling reasons' to do so. It is implicit that it is the government who decides what are 'compelling reasons'. The statement that Australia will reject 'unwarranted' requests from treaty committees to delay removal of unsuccessful asylum seekers from Australia is inexcusable, and will return people who are under the protection of the Torture convention will be returned to their country of origin when the United Nations is still not satisfied that their safety will be guaranteed. This reaction to the treaty system can be interpreted as a knee jerk reaction to criticism received from the UN on Australia's Human Rights abuses with regard to our aboriginal community. Rather than face it, they have chosen to undermine the system, which they helped put in place to protect minority and disadvantaged groups across the world. They have also flagged their refusal to sign off on the Optional Protocol to the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). This can be interpreted as retribution for the Australian women's movement, who, in 1997, exercised their right, enshrined in International Convention ratified by the Australian government , to present a report from the non government sector on the status of women in Australia to the Committee to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination against Women. The Human Rights Commissioner, Ms Mary Robinson has said that this decision goes against the universality of human rights. Women's groups should be asking why a government which has signed the optional protocols to a number of other treaties should refuse to sign the optional protocol which would make a stronger complaints procedure available to women. In their stated goal of ensuring adequate recognition of the primary role of democratically elected governments and the subordinate role of non-government organisations, it is implied that once a government selected, it should not be accountable either to the constituency which elected it, via the community or non government organisations, nor to the international community through the United Nations system of which they are an active part. John Pace, Director of the Australian Human Rights Centre, UNSW has said that the year 2000 has seen a steady and highly disturbing drift of Australia away form its traditional role as an important human rights power. There are grave implications in the line of argument that the government is pursuing. It does not only affect Australia's relationship with the United Nations. The explicit attack on the treaty committees will be seen by nations who have poor human rights records as encouragement to continue their blatant breaches of the conventions. In the past, Australia has been seen as a leader in the human rights field. It is tragic that our leaders now seem prepared to undermine international treaties by undermining the committees that implement them. In answer to the question of why this has happened, John Pace states; " an examination of the Aug 29 press release invariably reflects a confused and deep lack of understanding of the natures of international human rights law, its place in international relations and its relevance to the protection of human rights at the national level." This confusion is further compounded by a clear misunderstanding of the complimentary role and responsibility of non-governmental organisations in human rights issues. THE CURRENT GOVERNMENTS PROPOSALS ARE NOT ABOUT UNITED NATIONS REFORM THEY ARE ABOUT UNDERMINING AUSTRALIA'S COMMITMENT TO HUMAN RIGHTS ACT NOW TO PREVENT THIS HAPPENING. =============================================================== APWOMEN2000 is a general announcement list created to facilitate information and resource sharing for the NGO review process in Asia and the Pacific for the Beijing Platform for Action. Send postings to <email@example.com>. APWOMEN2000 is archived at: http://www.isiswomen.org/womenet/lists/apwomen2000/archive =============================================================== _________________________________________________________________________ fem-Women2000@jca.apc.org for Women 2000, UN Special Session on Beijing+5 Searcheable Archive http://www.jca.apc.org/fem/news/women2000/index.shtml visit fem-net HomePage for other mailing lists http://www.jca.apc.org/fem