Sunday, July 31, 2016

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Open letter from ex-detainee and torture survivor condemning Wheelers Centre for their questionable decision to invite Human rights violator Phillip Ruddock to speak Today on “Human Rights”

Event details – Today (Tuesday, 12th July 2016) 6.15pm 7.15pm

I am writing to complain about your forthcoming event featuring Phillip Ruddock. My name is Abdul Baig. I am a former refugee, now Australian citizen, and I was detained in immigration detention for three years during Philip Ruddock’s time as immigration minister.
The decision by the Wheeler Centre to invite Phillip Ruddock lends undue credibility to him as a human rights spokesperson. By inviting him to speak on human rights, you downplay his reprehensible human rights record, and add to the continued trauma and suffering of refugees like myself.
In the biography of Phillip Ruddock on your website, you distort by omission and through the use of euphemism, his human rights legacy. The words you use to describe his time as immigration minister are ‘turbulent’, ‘controversial’ and even ‘transformative’. I would like these words to be placed in their true context.
Woomera detention centre
I would like to remind the Wheeler Centre of the chaotic scenes that occurred at Woomera detention centre between 2001 and 2002 when the department was under Ruddock’s control.
Events at that centre included:
Mass suicide attempts involving the swallowing of detergent
Mass hunger strikes (the worst lasting 16 days)
People sewing up their lips
People digging their own graves
The centre being set on fire (this also occurred at Port Hedland and Baxter in November 2002).
Ruddock argued that the ‘behaviour’ of detained people in these centres was due to ‘alien cultural practices’ and that their acts were done with the intention of blackmailing the government into making positive visa decisions.
Up to 50 people were involved in a shocking 16-day hunger strike at Woomera in mid-2002. It was only when Ruddock feared that these people might die, that an emergency special advisory group was established to negotiate. The refugees at this centre asked for improved living conditions, better treatment and an open, transparent processing system.
Detained children
Between July 1999 and June 2003, 3,125 children were imprisoned in immigration detention. Shayan Baidrie was one such child, detained at Woomera. Having witnessed some of the sights I’ve mentioned above, he became unresponsive, paralytic and would not feed.
Over a three month period Shayan was hospitalised seven times in order to be rehydrated. Ruddock’s response to Shayan was to blame the child’s parents for ‘coaching’ the boy. He also said that the child had not witnessed a suicide, as had been claimed, because the trees at Woomera were too short to hang from.
Ruddock’s position on the necessity of detaining children remained fixed throughout his tenure.
Deaths in immigration detention
In a three year period from 2000 to 2003, 17 people died in immigration detention; these deaths were from suicide and medical neglect.
A further 730 people died in this period at sea, 353 in one day alone in the SIEV X disaster. A Senate Committee report into this incident held that it was “extraordinary that a major human disaster could occur in the vicinity of a theatre of intensive Australian operations and remain undetected until three days after the event without any concern being raised within intelligence and decision-making circles.”
Deportation of refugees
A report by the Edmund Rice Centre, a catholic organisation, tracked the fate of refugees deported during Phillip Ruddock’s tenure, in contravention of Australia’s non-refoulement obligations. In 2004 they released a report on 40 deported asylum seekers.
They found that 35 were living in conditions of acute danger. The report also argued that the payment of money and falsification of documentation by the Commonwealth government in the deportation process ‘invited accusations of corruption’.
The report noted that deportation practices under the period in which Ruddock was minister showed disrespect ‘for the standards of civilised behaviour and disregard for the human rights obligations imposed on Australia by various international treaties and declarations’.
The imprisonment of Australian residents and citizens
Under Ruddock’s leadership up to 200 cases emerged of Australian residents and citizens being falsely imprisoned in immigration detention, the most famous cases being the detention of mentally ill woman Cornelia Rau who was imprisoned for 10 months, and the detention and deportation of Australian citizen Vivien Alvarez Solon, who had been seriously injured in a car accident before she was picked up by immigration.
Architect of the Pacific Solution
Ruddock is the architect of the Pacific Solution. For three days, 438 shipwrecked asylum seekers were left aboard the Tampa, without adequate food, water or medical care as the government refused to allow the vessel into Australian waters. Up to 1,615 people were detained on Manus Island and Nauru between 2001 and 2008.
The Children Overboard affair
Ruddock was at the centre of the children overboard affair; he stated that parents had thrown their own children overboard when this had never occurred. Reports suggest that Ruddock was aware that this was not the truth.
Legislating to deny people asylum
Under Ruddock’s watch legislation was introduced to prevent people from seeking asylum. This was done though excising Australian territory from the Migration Act, interdicting boats on route to Australia and pushing them back into Indonesian waters, freezing refugee application claims and introducing temporary protection visas. Making conditions unbearable in detention centres through the systematic abuse of detained people was another well-known strategy.
Human rights organisations criticise Phillip Ruddock’s record
Australia’s detention centre policy has been resoundingly criticised throughout Ruddock’s tenure by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The United Nations Advisory Group on Immigration Detention, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Working Group on Immigration Detention, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the Australian Ombudsman.
I struggle to understand how a person with this legacy could be invited by your esteemed organisation to speak on the topic of human rights.
The Wheeler Centre suggests its programs are politically neutral; it argues on its website that views which are presumably abhorrent to one section of the community can be ‘balanced’ at a later time, by events featuring people with different views. Yet this fails to recognise the profound harm and injustice caused to the victims of human rights abuses, when perpetrators are invited to speak on human rights topics.

Abdul Baig – RISE member and ex-detainee
Link to the post :
RISE Admin
Refugee Survivors and Ex-detainees
level 1, Ross House 247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Victoria 3000
T:(03)9639 8623|M:0430 007 586|F:(03)9650 3689|

RISE acknowledges that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the original owners and custodians of the land that we live and work on.

RISE is a unique organisation governed by refugees, asylum seekers, and ex-detainees to enable refugees to build new lives by providing advice, engaging in community development, enhancing opportunity, and campaigning for refugee rights.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A prayer for the mothers of people in Australia’s offshore detention centres

Creator God,
Who was with the Mother of Moses as she suffered the loss of her missing child,
Who was with the Mother of Jesus as they fled together through the desert,
And who loves the mothers of the young men who have been treated so cruelly on Manus,
See the fears they carry in their bodies,
See them tossing in their sleep.
Creator of Justice and Mercy,
Who inspires in the heart of every person a desire to be good,
Who weeps about the violence of our collective sins,
And who loves our politicians who are responsible for those young men.
See the fears they carry in their bodies,
See them tossing in their sleep.
Creator of Community,
Who is the embodiment of perfect community,
Who challenges everyone to love their neighbour and their enemy.
And who invites everyone to eat together at the table,
Grant us the vision to see all those mothers who are not in front of us today,
Grant us with courage to welcome the stranger.
(Prayer from the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce) ‪#‎MothersDay ‪#‎refugees ‪#‎Manus
From Catholic Religious Australia website)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

PNG's Supreme Court rules detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal By PNG correspondent Eric Tlozek and political reporter Stephanie Anderson

Updated earlier today at 4:58am
Asylum seekers stare at media from behind a fence
Photo: The court ordered PNG and Australia immediately take steps to end the detention of asylum seekers in PNG. (AAP: Eoin Blackwell, file photo)
Related Story: PNG Government says refugee assessments on Manus Island completed
Related Story: Iranian refugee on Manus hopes PNG will reconsider his case after tree protest
Related Story: Manus detainees say they will be allowed to leave centre during the day
Map: Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court has ruled Australia's detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal.
Key points:

Judges say detention on PNG breached asylum seekers' fundamental human rights
Lawyer says PNG ignored it own laws when taking in Australia's refugees
Dutton says no refugees will be resettled in Australia
Greens pushing for detainees to be brought to Australia

The five-man bench of the court ruled the detention breached the right to personal liberty in the PNG constitution.

There are 850 men in the detention centre on Manus Island, about half of whom have been found to be refugees.

The Supreme Court has ordered the PNG and Australian Governments to immediately take steps to end the detention of asylum seekers in PNG.

"Both the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments shall forthwith take all steps necessary to cease and prevent the continued unconstitutional and illegal detention of the asylum seekers or transferees at the relocation centre on Manus Island and the continued breach of the asylum seekers or transferees constitutional and human rights," the judges ordered.

In one of two lead judgments, Justice Terence Higgins said the detention also breached asylum seekers' fundamental human rights guaranteed by various conventions on human rights at international law and under the PNG constitution.

"Treating those required to remain in the relocation centre as prisoners irrespective of their circumstances or status … is to offend against their rights and freedoms," Judge Higgins said.
'Disgraceful' decision to take in Australia's refugees

Media player: "Space" to play, "M" to mute, "left" and "right" to seek.
Video: Julian Burnside on PNG Supreme Court finding Manus detention is illegal (The World)

Loani Henao, the lawyer for former PNG opposition leader Belden Namah, said the decision showed the PNG Government had ignored its own laws when it accepted Australia's asylum seekers.

"The gist of the ruling is the arrangement between the governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia is unconstitutional from day one," he said.

Mr Henao said PNG was influenced by Australia in amending its constitution, to the benefit of Australia.

"That is disgraceful," he said.

The centre operators and PNG's immigration authorities have recently been trying to move refugees out of detention and into a so-called transit centre.

They are also offering them the chance to leave detention during the day under certain conditions.

The asylum seekers whose applications have not succeeded are unable to leave detention and are being told they must go back to their country of origin.

The Supreme Court decision means both groups — refugees and asylum seekers — are being illegally detained, because their freedom of movement is curtailed.

Media player: "Space" to play, "M" to mute, "left" and "right" to seek.

Video: Explainer: What does the ruling mean? (ABC News)
Refugees won't be resettled in Australia: Dutton

But Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said no detainees would be resettled in Australia.

In a statement, Mr Dutton said the ruling would not alter Australia's border protection policies.

The Government has no other option but to bring the people left there to Australia and allow them to apply for an Australian visa
Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young

"No one who attempts to travel to Australia illegally by boat will settle in Australia," he said.

"Those in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre found to be refugees are able to resettle in Papua New Guinea. Those found not to be refugees should return to their country of origin.

"People who have attempted to come illegally by boat and are now in the Manus facility will not be settled in Australia."

Mr Dutton said the agreement with PNG to establish the Manus Island centre was negotiated by the Gillard Labor government, but Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles told the ABC the former government had only signed a 12-month contract.
Fact check: Australia's responsibility

Is Australia responsible for asylum seekers detained on Manus Island? ABC's FactCheck investigates

Mr Marles said Mr Dutton needed to travel to PNG to sort out the issue as soon as tomorrow.

"We negotiated a 12-month agreement with Papua New Guinea for the use of Manus Island as an offshore processing facility in the expectation that the vast bulk of people would be processed and settled in that period of time," he said.

"Instead, we've seen a complete failure on the part of the Turnbull Government."

Mr Marles would not be drawn on whether remaining detainees should be transferred to Australia, saying instead it was important the people smuggler trade did not restart.
Greens say the 'game is up'

Greens immigration spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young has called for all remaining detainees to be brought to Australia.

Senator Hanson-Young told the ABC "the game was up" and Mr Turnbull has to listen to legal and humanitarian experts.

Australia must … promptly shut the centre down and transport all of the detainees to Australia for processing of their claims for asylum
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie

"Really the Government now has no other option but to bring the people left there to Australia and allow them to apply for an Australian visa," she said.

"They've seen two of their colleagues in the detention centre die, one at the hands of guards and another because he had an infected foot which became septic. These are people who have already suffered."

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has backed her calls, describing offshore processing as "a gaping hole in Australia's soul".

"Australia must immediately respect the court ruling, promptly shut the centre down and transport all of the detainees to Australia for processing of their claims for asylum," Mr Wilkie said.

PNG's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill last month told the National Press Club in Canberra that he wanted the regional processing centre to close.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

In Remembrance of Me A Poem for Maundy Thursday

Stained glass window depicting Jesus and the apostles at the Last Supper in the cathedral of Brussels. by jorisvo /
By Lindsey Paris-Lopez Sojourners March 24, 2016
I am this broken and bleeding world.
I am Brussels, blown apart, the strewn limbs, the piercing wail of a mother for her baby.
I am Yemen, at the marketplace, charred bodies of children face-down in the dust.
I am Syria, families cramming into boats as guns and missiles chase them from the shore.
I am Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, pockmarked by bomb blasts, orphaned children hiding away from clear blue skies.
I am the growling of empty bellies drowned by the sound of gold pouring into the bottomless coffers of the war machines as they devour their sustenance and spit out death in return.
I am generation upon generation of silenced and vanished victim buried in the ground and trampled.
I am slain from the foundation of the world.
Absorbing the fear and hate of thousands of years,
I clothed myself in flesh and vulnerability
And came back to my plundered home.
I walked among those whose pain I had shouldered from the beginning of time,
The cast off and thrown away.
I took the leper into my arms.
In my eyes the used and exploited found their humanity reflected back to them.
I opened the eyes of the blind.
I fed the starving with bread and wisdom.
I took the children on my knee.
As I walked, I scattered the Love in which I was born before time began.
A sick and aching world takes time to heal.
And in that time, fear moves fast.
The Powers that build their empires by exploiting divisions –
Only to reign in the sprawling chaos by uniting the deceived people against someone –
Have named me the enemy.
So now I come to you, my friends,
As we gather around this table.
And you quarrel about who among you is the greatest.
Don’t you see, it is this me-against-you attitude
That has brought me here, to the brink of my destruction?
For one evening, let us put aside the bitter bickering
And enjoy one last feast, one final fellowship.
If you want to be great, cast off the shackles of self-doubt that choke out your love for each other,
If you want glory, make it manifest in acts of service.
I come among you, I come below you, washing your feet,
To show you love you’ve never known.
You will never know how blessed and beloved you are,
Until you let the love within you pour out to others.
From the beginning of time, I have seen brother set against brother,
Nation set against nation,
Selfishness erupt in violence, converging upon victim after victim
All sprung from the same seed of desire for greatness against someone else.
If you want to be great, be for others,
Even as I am for you.
I am this broken and bleeding world.
This bread is my broken body.
This cup is my spilled blood.
As it has been done to victims from the beginning of time,
So it is done to me.
I give my broken self to you.
Take in my life.
Let me nourish you with my love
Until the spirit of compassion bursts the old wineskins of your brittle hearts …
Until you become a new creation.
Let the body of my work become the work of your body.
Embrace the outcasts,
Reconcile enemies,
Feed my sheep.
Unite in me, with me in you.
I give my broken self to you –
Only in coming together can the fullness of my life be manifest again.
Let this bread bind you together,
Let this wine wash away your divisions.
I am broken for a broken world
A world that needs your love
To be made whole again.
Take me into you and become my body.
Eat this bread.
Drink this wine.
Do this in re-membrance of me.
Lindsey Paris-Lopez
Lindsey Paris-Lopez is editor-in-chief at the Raven Foundation, where she uses mimetic theory to provide social commentary on religion, politics, and pop culture.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Tony Abbott’s open contempt for international human rights law March 31, 2016 4.15pm AEDT

Sarah Joseph  
Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has penned an essay in Quadrant defending his government’s stance on national security. It betrays an extraordinarily open contempt for international human rights law.

Abbott starts by saying that he is proud that his government was committed to “uphold[ing] our values around the world”, then immediately repudiates “the moral posturing of the Rudd years”. Hence, he seems to quickly divorce Australian values from notions of morality. He then goes on to confirm that, as explained below.

Abbott and gross human rights abuses by Sri Lanka

Notoriously, Abbott was very forgiving of Sri Lanka’s human rights record when he attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in that country in 2013.

His stance contrasted sharply with those of the leaders of Canada, India and Mauritius (who all boycotted CHOGM that year due to Sri Lanka’s human rights record), and that of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who raised the issue of war crimes while attending the meeting.

Sri Lanka finished a decades-long civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the Tamil Tigers) in 2009, with tens of thousands of civilians killed in the final weeks of the conflict. Since then, Sri Lanka has faced credible allegations of gross war crimes at the end of that war, and the UN continues to call for an independent investigation. While Sri Lanka’s new government has promised to comply, it currently seems a faint prospect.

In his Quadrant essay, Abbott defends his Sri Lanka stance. He is proud that Sri Lanka’s president at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa:

… was pleased that Australia didn’t join the human rights lobby against the tough but probably unavoidable actions taken to end one of the world’s most vicious civil wars.

Rajapaksa has since lost power. It is not clear whether Sri Lanka’s current government is happy with Abbott’s craven stance at CHOGM towards its political opponent. It is clear that victims were appalled by it.

Abbott excused war crimes, and continues to do so, trivialising the killings of thousands of civilians as “tough actions” which were “probably unavoidable”. Presumably, Australia’s “values” for Abbott exclude support for the international law of armed conflict.

Abbott has topical company here, if one compares the statements of US presidential candidate Donald Trump, who recently describe the core war law treaties, the Geneva Conventions, as a “problem” given their prohibition on torture.

Stopping the boats

Abbott’s Sri Lanka position was a means to an end, as he freely admits in his Quadrant essay. Australia needed Sri Lanka’s help in “stopping the boats”.

That may be so, but it is likely that many of those that were stopped with Australian help from fleeing Sri Lanka were genuine refugees fleeing persecution. After all, Sri Lanka remains accused of ongoing human rights violations, both under Rajapaksa after the civil war and under its new government, including torture. Hence, Australian values according to Abbott include a repudiation of the right to seek asylum from persecution.

Furthermore, Abbott is incautious with the truth here, in referring to the arrival of 50,000 people and 1200 drownings under the Rudd-Gillard governments as justification for Australia’s close co-operation with Sri Lanka. The vast majority of boats came from Indonesia, and the vast majority of drownings occurred on that route.

Abbott goes on to assert that the boat arrivals were a “national security” issue, as:

… a country that can’t control its borders sooner or later loses control of its future.

This is a bold assertion with no evidence. All boats that arrived in Australia were apprehended, and there is no evidence that those who have arrived by boat have threatened Australia’s national security.

Abbott later acknowledges the importance of Indonesia’s role in “stopping the boats”, so he admits to “a very early sign of good faith” towards its government. West Papuan asylum seekers were “quietly returned to Papua New Guinea”, which may constitute refoulement depending on the circumstances.

The right of non-refoulement, that is the return of a person to a place where they legitimately fear persecution, or to a country which will send them on to such a place, is the major plank of international refugee law. International refugee law is however clearly not a plank of Australia’s values, according to our former prime minister.

While Abbott was happy to show good faith to Indonesia in possibly refouling West Papuan activists, he makes no explicit mention of Indonesia’s continued protests at Australia’s insistence on returning asylum boats to its shores.

Abbott’s concerns over Indonesia’s sovereignty, so apparent in preventing a protest by (some other) West Papuan activists sailing from Australia to Indonesia, seem selective. So too do his concerns over sovereignty generally, given his eagerness, confirmed later in the essay, to send Australian troops to Ukraine to secure the site of the downed MH17.

Abbott’s open contempt for the international rule of law is perhaps matched by a cavalier attitude to Australian law. He admits that Operation Sovereign Borders was felt by “some government lawyers” to be “beyond power”. Such concerns are brushed off by the assertion that “the government simply had to stop the boats”, rather than with any assurance that the policy in fact complied with the rule of law.

A refreshing candour?

Perhaps Abbott should be applauded for displaying a refreshing candour regarding the true motivations of government, with his realpolitik rejection of international law.

Other Western governments, including Australian ones, have hypocritically proclaimed a commitment to international human rights law while effectively turning blind eyes to major human rights abuses by allies such as Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. US President Barack Obama can condemn torture but still authorise unprecedented numbers of drone strikes with little transparency and little likelihood of compliance with international law.

And successive Australian governments tolerated crimes against humanity by Indonesia in Timor Leste. Do words matter if betrayed by deeds? At least Abbott can perhaps be said to be doing what he said and what he meant (to paraphrase his Quadrant essay).

Except he isn’t. Confusingly, in relation to Russia’s role on MH17, Abbott says that:

… the trampling of justice and decency in the pursuit of national aggrandisement, and reckless indifference to human life should have no place in our world.

In relation to Australia’s role combating Islamic State, he says that:

We can never abandon civilised values.

In relation to the rise of China, he says that all countries in our region have a “stake in rules-based global order”. Yet, in relation to Sri Lanka and possible refoulement of West Papuan activists, Abbott brazenly abandoned “civilised values”, endorsed the “trampling of justice and decency”, and jettisoned some of the most fundamental rules of the current global order.

Furthermore, words do matter. Certainly, the international rule of law, including international human rights law, is under constant strain from the self-interested realpolitik of probably all countries (to different extents). And yet it survives as some sort of constraint on state behaviour.

Seven years after the end of its civil war, Sri Lanka remains under significant pressure to provide redress, and a judicial net within Sri Lanka may now be closing in on the previously “untouchable” Rajapaksa.

Abbott’s open and proud rejection of international human rights law is a manifestation of a dangerous phenomenon, apparently shared by Trump. While governments may often fail to stick to the values that they say they uphold, the international rule of law has little hope at all if those values are simply discarded altogether.

Tony Abbott’s open contempt for international human rights law March 31, 2016 4.15pm AEDT

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sri Lanka torture victims call for international war inquiry

Two Sri Lankan Tamils tell DW how they were rounded up after the civil war ended, and tortured. They hope to pressure the government to bring in foreign judges to investigate war crimes allegations.

Cigarette burns on Tamil torture survivor: Photo by Will Baxter, for Tainted Peace: Torture in Sri Lanka since May 2009, Freedom from Torture

34-year-old Mayairan, from Sri Lanka's north-eastern district of Mullaitivu was studying in Malaysia when his country's 26-year-long civil war ended in May 2009.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which had fought ferociously for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east, was overwhelmed by government forces in the last months of the conflict. The government finally defeated the notorious group known as the Tamil Tigers.

In the months following the war, thousands of Tamils went missing, including Mayairan's parents. Witnesses described how security forces rounded up Tamils in white vans for interrogation, never to be return. Fearing his parents could have been taken, Mayairan flew home and went looking for them, but was arrested himself when he reached the former war zone.

"I was taken to an army camp and they told me I had to sign a document admitting to being an LTTE member. I said I wasn't even living in Sri Lanka, but they didn't believe me," he told DW.

Mayairan says he was beaten and tortured for several weeks. At one point, the pain was so bad he passed out. Despite having no direct association with the LTTE, he eventually signed the confession.

Trauma and scars

"Sometimes they'd bring you into the room twice a day trying to get you to confess. They broke my nose and I lost several teeth. I'd get hit on my head, my back and my legs," he told DW, showing scars on his head and body he said were inflicted during the torture.

While it's claimed that numerous Tamils have been held for years without charge and that many never got out of detention alive, Mayairan's family pulled strings to help clear his name.

"My parents, who were actually looking for my brother-in-law, by chance found me in custody and paid a bribe to the army to get me out," he said. He later paid an agent to arrange a UK student visa and flew to London.

Another torture survivor, 39-year-old Kalairajan from the northern town of Vavuniya described what happened after he and his family surrendered to authorities in May 2009. He was separated from his loved ones and lined up in front of a van.

Inside the vehicle was a Tamil informer, working for the government. Kalairajan explained how the informer would press the car horn if he recognized you as a member of the Tamil Tigers, and you would be separated from others and taken away.

"When the horn sounded for me, my heart stopped, I started sweating and shivering and thought I was going to pass out," he said.

He was stripped naked, beaten and sent to a "rehabilitation center" for ex-Tamil fighters.

"The room they took me to would make you faint. Inside were rods and iron bars and you see blood everywhere. You could also see the injuries to some of the other prisoners," Kalairajan told DW.

"Sexual torture"

When he wouldn't admit to being an LTTE fighter, the officers put a polythene bag over his head and dowsed it with petrol, Kalairajan said. He struggled to breathe for several minutes due to the fumes. They eventually took off the bag, before again ordering him to admit he was a member of the LTTE.

"During one torture session, one of the guards grabbed my penis and pulled the skin back. Then he took a needle-like instrument, a long mental piece and then inserted it into the top of my penis," Kalairajan explained.

Branding marks on Tamil torture survivors: Photo by Will Baxter, for Tainted Peace: Torture in Sri Lanka since May 2009, Freedom from Torture
Branding marks on the back of a Tamil torture survivor, photographed for Freedom From Torture's report, Tainted Peace: Torture in Sri Lanka since May 2009

The other guards started laughing as the metal strip was removed and then reinserted, while Kalairajan bled and screamed in pain.

After more than five months in detention, he escaped and fled to India and then the UK, where he and Mayairan are being helped by the London-based NGO Freedom From Torture.

More they six years after the war ended, both men are waiting to hear if their UK asylum claims will be successful. Like almost 60 percent of cases, their initial applications were rejected. Kalairajan's case is being appealed, while Mayairan is making a fresh application, after initially receiving bad legal advice.

Wider investigation stopped

Sri Lanka has pledged to investigate the disappearance of Tamils, and other alleged atrocities in the final months of the war. But the Colombo government has ruled out allowing United Nations war crimes teams to visit.

The government continues to deny accusations of severe torture and sexual violence at the end and after the war. But Freedom From Torture's joint head of psychiatric services, William Hopkins, told DW he's seen plenty of evidence.

"Sexual violation is very common, many people have been raped or humiliated. Another form of torture is asphyxiation, and one of the things we can successfully document medically/legally is branding. The victims have been burned with iron rods."

Both men told DW they hope the Sri Lankan government will properly investigate the many cases of torture and disappearance from the Tamil community following the nearly three decade-long conflict.

"Truth will come out"

Other Sri Lankan torture survivors that Freedom From Torture has treated are equally disappointed at a lack of justice for what's been done to Sri Lankan Tamils.

"They don't believe this (an inquiry) can be done by domestic judges," Hopkins told DW. "They would like hybrid courts, where international judges and investigators come along with domestic authorities and look into these human rights violations."

Mayairan and Kalairajan will struggle to move on with their lives while they remain in what Hopkins described as "asylum limbo".

"It can be years before they do get asylum. They have all the stress and secondary psychological problems from waiting. It can be very distressing because they always fear that they'll be sent back and tortured again," he added.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Locking up Indigenous kids costs $236 million a year

Bianca Hall Sydney Morning Herald March 16, 2016
On National Close the Gap Day, more than 1500 community and corporate events are being held across the country. Vision courtesy Oxfam Australia.
Locking up Aboriginal children costs Australia almost a quarter of a billion dollars a year, according to new figures compiled by Save the Children and released on the eve of Close the Gap Day.
On an average day last June, there were 480 Indigenous young people behind bars, with each young person costing authorities $1355 a day.
Government data shows that Indigenous young people are 26 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous young people. Most of those Indigenous young people in detention are yet to be sentenced.

Indigenous young people made up 54 per cent of young people in youth justice detention last June, despite comprising about 5 per cent of the population. Photo: Greg Newington
And according to the most recent snapshot, Indigenous young people made up 54 per cent of young people in youth justice detention last June, despite comprising about 5 per cent of the population.
Save the Children's director of policy and public affairs, Mat Tinkler, described the situation as ‘a stain on our nation’………
‘We know that young offenders often end up in adult prison, so it's critical we break the cycle and help give young people a better future,’ Mr Tinkler said………
Read more

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

As a child on Nauru I was NR03-283, but my name is Mohammad Ali Baqiri

Mohammad Ali Baqiri The Guardian March 15, 2016

A Spanish company is poised to take over the running of Australia’s offshore detention centres and risks being associated with human rights abuses forever

Mohammad Ali Baqiri addresses school children about being in detention. Photograph: Jason Hill

NR03-283. That was the number they gave me, during the three years I spent in the Nauru detention camp. I was 13 when I left, and took back my name – Mohammad Ali Baqiri.

Now I’m 24, a proud Melburnian in the final semester of a degree in law and business. Today, I write as a survivor of Australia’s cruel offshore detention regime – just as a Spanish multinational, Ferrovial, stands poised to take over Broadspectrum Limited (formerly Transfield Services), and with it the multi-million dollar contract to keep the Nauru and Manus detention camps open.

No Business in Abuse, an organisation I’ve worked with before, wrote to Ferrovial in December 2015 requesting a meeting to discuss the human rights risks inherent in offshore detention. Ferrovial refused.

I’ve also now written to the company, asking them to meet me personally. It’s Ferrovial’s last chance before the takeover bid closes, potentially locking the company into association with human rights abuses that will destroy its reputation forever. If representatives agree to meet with me, this is what I’ll tell them:

I’m an Afghan Hazara. When I was 10 years old, I fled the Taliban to seek safety in Australia without my parents, but with my brother’s family.

I taught myself English in Nauru detention camp. The guards, employed by a corporation, weren’t that interested in speaking to me, but it was the only way I could learn English. These guards, paid by the Australian government to detain a child, grudgingly became my teachers.

International human rights bodies have condemned Australia’s system of arbitrary and indefinite detention as abusive.

I’ve experienced it first hand and it has affected me in ways I can’t yet explain…………

Perhaps Ferrovial genuinely hopes to improve conditions in the centres. Let me tell you first-hand, it is impossible.

Arbitrary detention is, in itself, harmful. It doesn’t matter how well you run the camps; keeping innocent men, women and children indefinitely locked up for no reason is abuse……

On 17 March Mohammad Ali Baquiri will address the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling for Australia to close down detention centres.

Read more

Friday, March 11, 2016

A 10-year-old girl has taken her own life. How can we possibly look away?

Stan Grant The Guardian March 9, 2016
A girl who should have been playing with dolls decided her world was so bleak she no longer wanted to live. Look at your children today and think about that.

‘Ten years old. Think about that. Someone’s daughter. A child who came into the world with the joy of all newborns.’ Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP
When is enough enough? What does it take to snap us out of our complacency? How many needless deaths does it take to tell us that Indigenous Australia is in deep, deep crisis?
My mind is flooded with these questions this day as I ponder the suicide of a 10-year-old girl in Western Australia. She is one of so many. Nineteen people have killed themselves in remote parts of the state since December. She is the youngest.
Ten years old. Think about that. Someone’s daughter. A child who came into the world with the joy of all newborns. A child who first smiled, who spoke her first words, who said ‘mum’ and ‘dad’. A child who laughed her first laugh, who took her first step, who held the hands of her parents as babies do, tiny hands tightly gripping a finger. All of this potential, all of this love, all she could have brought to the world: all of it gone.
I can’t speak to the specifics of this girl’s life or death, but I can say she was born into the sadness that too often is our world. She was born into the intergenerational trauma of so many black families. This was her inheritance. In just 10 years this girl who should have been skipping in the playground, singing along to herself in the mirror, still playing with dolls, her mind on the distractions of childhood, instead decided that her world was so bleak she no longer wanted to live……..
A 10-year-old has taken her own life. She was one of my people, your people. Our people. She was a young Australian girl. My heart is heavy as I am sure is yours.
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Monday, March 7, 2016

War, Peace, and Bernie Sanders

Robert C. Koehler Common Dreams March 3, 2016

It’s the day after the big vote and I’m doing my best to dig Tulsi Gabbard’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders out from beneath the pile of Super Tuesday numbers and media declarations of winners and losers.
As a Boston Globe headline put it: ‘Clinton and Trump are now the presumptive nominees. Get used to it.’
But something besides winning and losing still matters, more than ever, in the 2016 presidential race. War and peace and a fundamental questioning of who we are as a nation are actually on the line in this race, or could be — for the first time since 1972, when George McGovern was the Democratic presidential nominee.
Embrace what matters deeply and there’s no such thing as losing.
Gabbard, an Iraq war vet, congresswoman from Hawaii and ‘rising star’ in the Democratic establishment, stepped down as vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee in order to endorse Sanders — because he’s the only candidate who is not financially and psychologically tied to the military-industrial complex………………..
Because of Gabbard — only because of Gabbard — the multi-trillion-dollar monstrosity of U.S. militarism is getting a little mainstream media attention amid the reality-TV histrionics of this year’s presidential race, the Donald Trump phenomenon and the spectacle of Republican insult-flinging……………..
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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

New Zealand offers to take 267 asylum seekers, including 37 babies, from Australia

The country’s prime minister, John Key, says the ‘sensible and compassionate’ offer still stands despite Australia ‘historically rejecting it’

Asylum seekers facing deportation to Nauru and Manus Island by the Australian government could go to New Zealand if they are found to be refugees, the country’s prime minister has said.

On Monday John Key indicated his country could provide a solution to the standoff over the 267 people slated to be returned to offshore processing centres.
Thousands rally Australia-wide against offshore detention of asylum seekers
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In 2013 agreement was brokered between his and the then prime minister Julia Gillard’s government. The agreement allows for New Zealand to take 150 refugees a year from Australia’s immigration system as part of its annual intake of 750 people.

Key reiterated the “sensible and compassionate” offer still stood, if Australia asked, Fairfax reported.

“Historically the Australians have said no but it is part of the 750 allocation that we have and if they wanted us to take people then – subject to them meeting the criteria – the New Zealand government would be obliged to do that because we’ve given that commitment that we’d do so,” Key said ahead of a meeting with the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

In January Guardian Australia reported that Australia had never taken up the offer but it remained open, despite the former prime minister, Tony Abbott, effectively shelving when he took office.

Among those facing deportation are 37 babies born in Australia to asylum seeker parents, and another 54 children, some of whom are attending school. A high court decision this month ruled Australia’s offshore processing regime legal. The government had introduced retrospective legislation after the case had begun.

Key said it was “potentially possible” the 37 babies could be accepted by New Zealand but “it would need to fit within the criteria that they are refugees as defined by the broader category that we take”.

Should it go ahead, a transfer would probably have to happen after July. A spokeswoman for New Zealand’s immigration minister, Michael Woodhouse, told Guardian Australia this year’s 150 places had been absorbed into the total 750 and used to accommodate Syrian refugees.

Key’s suggestion is likely to fuel community pressure on the Australian government over its plans to return the asylum seekers to Manus and Nauru, where abuses against asylum seekers have been documented. Mass protests have called for an amnesty allowing the asylum seekers – and particularly the Australian-born babies and their families – to be allowed to stay.
Churches offer sanctuary to asylum seekers facing deportation to Nauru
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State leaders on both sides of politics have offered to take the asylum seekers, and a number of churches have offered sanctuary – an ancient biblical concept that is not legally recognised in Australian law.

A Brisbane hospital has refused to discharge a baby, known as Asha, because it believes Nauru is not a safe environment for a child. Other medical workers have also spoken out in defiance of the Border Force Act which criminalises the discussion of detention conditions by “entrusted persons”.

This week the leading medical journal the Lancet described Australia’s offshore detention policies as “scandalously objectionable”.

Turnbull and Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, have said the government must continue its hard-line stance to prevent a resurgence in people smuggling.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Statement from Pax Christi Australia - 4 February 2016

Pax Christi Australia is a branch of the International Ecumenical Peace movement, Pax Christi International. Pax Christi is heartened and encouraged by the actions of some churches in this country in their response to the recent High Court 6-1 decision to support the deportation of people back to Nauru. These churches have decided to offer sanctuary to refugees facing deportation to renewed violence and violations of their human rights. Pax Christi Australia is calling on more churches, parishes and cathedrals to stand together in reviving an ancient Christian tradition in providing sanctuary inside a church where people fleeing unjust civil authorities can reside. We acknowledge that it is not recognised in common law now, but the action of the churches is a challenge to a policy that has been and continues to harm innocent people who have not committed a crime.

This solidarity is not about politics but very much related to humanity and morality. Many commentators outside the church have stated that though the High Court has decreed the legality of Government legislation this does not mean it is moral or humane. We have recently condemned legal actions in Saudi Arabia in the knowledge that legality does not equal morality or humanity.

Pax Christi Australia is calling on the wider church in Australia in join together in this movement. This is a time to show courage and leadership where many people despair at the inhumanity that is perpetrated again innocent people. This leadership will also offer people who think that all laws must be followed irrespective of the harm they do that there is another way… the way of the gospel and Christ’s example.

To remain inactive and silent in the face of injustice, to not stand in solidarity with those who have the courage to resist injustice would leave a great stain on our humanity as well as violating the humanity of people who are victims of all kinds of abuse under these laws.

Along with the churches who have offered sanctuary, Pax Christi Australia cannot ignore the consequences of the High Court ruling which many recognise will inflict further trauma on already traumatised people. People have suffered and been traumatised. We will not say yes to further trauma being caused.

Fr Claude Mostowik msc
Pax Christi Australia
February 4, 2016

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

ICAN Australia Black Mist White Rain Speaking Tour 2016

“We heard it here, loud and clear, and felt the ground shake. We seen the radiation fall out over our camp. It was moving very quietly and very deadly.” – Yami Lester, South Australia.

“People were playing with the fallout as it fell from the sky… We put it in our hair as if it was soap or shampoo. But later I lost all my hair from it.” – Rinok Riklon, Republic of the Marshall Islands.

This coming April, ICAN Australia is hitting the road for a special speaking tour. Over four days in four cities, we'll explore the ongoing impacts of nuclear testing in our region and the inspiring triumph of cultural survival.

Join the Tour in your city to hear from Sue Coleman-Haseldine, Kokatha-Mula woman from Ceduna, Abacca Anjain-Maddison, from the Marshall Islands, and more inspiring people who will share their stories from the frontlines of nuclear testing; stories that bring home the urgent necessity of a treaty to outlaw the nuclear bomb.

Monday 4th April in Adelaide
Tuesday 5th April in Melbourne
Wednesday 6th April in Sydney
Thursday 7th April in Brisbane