UN Calls For Transparency In Nauru Detention Centers

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Nauru officials praised for cooperation in investigation

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, May 11, 2015) – A United Nations torture prevention team has called for greater transparency on conditions and systems governing the immigration detention centre in Nauru following a visit to the island nation.

UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture chair Malcolm Evans, one of three senior UN rights experts who visited Nauru, was unable to discuss the team's findings for confidentiality reasons.

Speaking exclusively to Pacific Beat, however, Mr Evans said there were "grave concerns around the entire set-up" for asylum seekers on Nauru.

"The idea of holding all of those seeking asylum in closed institutions ... of this nature — with no real understanding of what their long-term future is likely to be — is bound to be a cause of great distress," he said.

As a signatory to the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, Nauru had no option but to allow the UN experts full access to its police station and prison, as well as the Australian-run Regional Processing Centre for asylum seekers.

Asylum seekers 'cut off' from outside world

Mr Evans said the team had unfettered access to the facilities they visited.

"We do have this extremely broad power of access. One of the reasons is that we are bound by an obligation of confidentiality about what we see when we go into these places," he said.

"Clearly, when people are not able to know what's going on in such places, or hurdles appear and it's difficult, it can only raise questions about why people don't want to know.

"This is why we think independent monitoring is so important — transparency is one of the greatest protections here. Where there's a lack of transparency, naturally there will be concerns things are not as they ought."

There is a lack of information available about conditions for asylum seekers on Nauru and a ban on access for journalists.

Facebook, a major of method of communication on the island, has also been recently banned, according to reports.

'In principle, those seeking asylum — they haven't committed any crime. They have a legal right to be in the country in which they are present," he said.

"They are seeking asylum and they ought to be able to function in as open a fashion as possible. Any restrictions that may be in place — I don't know the details, I know what's been alleged but I don't know whether they're true or not — that clearly would be another erosion of what they would be entitled to expect.''

UN praises cooperation of Nauru officials

Mr Evans said the team looked at the treatment of children in detention on Nauru.

''The point of such a body as this is that it would be able to go into any place and see how everybody is treated," he said.

"The treatment of children is a very major element of that, not only where asylum seekers are held, but generally where there are children in detention, in prisons, in police stations."

Mr Evans praised Nauru for the way officials cooperated with the UN experts and said it was a hopeful sign for the future.

"It suggests that Nauru is serious about its obligations under the protocol, which is why we are hopeful that with the advice and assistance it would be very willing to see the mechanisms that we suggest put in place, as well, of course, the recommendations that we will be making in our confidential report.''

Mr Evans said he hoped Nauru would make public the report, which should be complete by the end of August.

 

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