The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) says he is “shocked” by the footage released by Four Corners of the alleged human rights abuse at the Don Dale child detention centre in the Northern Territory.
A spokesman for Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Rupert Colville, said the Australian Government’s announcement of a royal commission into the allegations was an “important step”, but insisted the investigation must be independent due to the severity of the alleged human rights violations.
He said multiple international conventions may have been broken.
“It’s a very, very serious matter,” Mr Colville said.
“We are talking here about two international conventions that Australia has signed which could be breached by this kind of behaviour, this impossibly cruel and inhumane treatment of these children.
“There’s the convention for the rights of the child and also the convention against torture.”
Concerns have been raised over the independence of the investigation after a number of Northern Territory ministers were consulted when devising the terms of reference of the commission.
Mr Colville said the royal commission must maintain its integrity if it is to expose human rights breaches in the detention centres.
“The bottom line is that it has to be independent, it has to be transparent and it has to be credible. People must have confidence with what comes out,” he said.
UN calls for scope of investigation to be broadened
Reports of violence towards youth in detention outside of the Northern Territory have prompted calls for the inquest into abuse to include other states.
“We would encourage the Government to extend it beyond the Northern Territory in case this kind of behaviour is happening elsewhere,” Mr Colville said.
“There is a risk that this could be just the tip of the iceberg, not just in this particular youth detention centre, Don Dale, but is this kind of behaviour happening in other centres? Is it still happening?
“If it is found that these children have been either tortured or subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, then under the convention it says very clearly each state party should ensure in its legal system the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation.”
Mr Colville said Australia needed to ensure action was taken which showed an understanding of the severity of the allegations, and to do everything it could to rectify the situation.
“Not simply in dealing with the people who’ve behaved inappropriately but also in dealing with these children who’ve potentially been damaged for life by what they’ve been through,” he said.