Nauru Claims UN Human Rights Inspectors Weren't Invited

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Questions whether detention camp cancellation was 'publicity stunt'

By Karen Barlow

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, April 10, 2014) –The Nauru Government has questioned whether a United Nations inspection team is using the Pacific island nation for a publicity stunt.

Human rights inspectors, from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, have had to cancel a trip to Nauru to investigate the conditions of more than 1,100 asylum seekers sent by Australia.

The inspectors had just completed a two week tour of New Zealand at the invitation of the government and were about to fly to Nauru to inspect the Australian run immigration detention centre.

However, the visit was suddenly cancelled earlier this week.

The Nauru Government says it did not invite the group and it says it read about its intentions in the media.

A government spokesman has told the ABC that, "Given the way they have gone about this, it is reasonable to question whether this is merely another publicity stunt by a group with a political agenda."

At a press conference in New Zealand the Working group's leader, Mads Andenas, said Nauru had changed positions.

"The government of Nauru, which invited us, has asked us not to come," he said.

"They cite practical reasons for it not being suitable or practical for us to come."

The Australian Government says it was not involved in a decision to cancel a United Nations inspection of Australian-run immigration detention facilities on Nauru.

A spokesman for the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the 'matter is one for the Nauruan Government' and the 'Australian Government respects the sovereignty of Nauru.'

The UN inspectors, which report to the UN Human Rights Council, had been issued visas to visit Nauru.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention covers issues around over-incarceration and detention of asylum seekers and refugees, persons with mental or intellectual disabilities, children and young persons.

The delegation is composed of the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group, Mr. Mads Andenas, and a member of the Working Group, Mr. Roberto Garretón.

They are accompanied by two members of the Working Group's Secretariat at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Group's initial statement at the conclusion of the New Zealand country visit cites concerns about institutional racism in the criminal justice system.

It has recommended that a review be undertaken of the 'degree of inconsistencies and systemic bias against Maori at all the different levels of the criminal justice system.'

The statement says, 'Incarceration that is the outcome of such bias constitutes arbitrary detention in violation of international law.'

The Working Group's full report will be publicly available later in the year.

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