23 March 2004

No torture please, we're Australian

The Joint Committee on Treaties has recommended the government not ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The protocol sets up an inspection mechanism and requires signatory states to maintain preventive mechanisms against torture. Australia has already signed the Convention, so it cannot be any problem with the definition of torture in the convention.

I'll read the report, which might take a while, and see what it has to say. At first glance it looks suspiciously like this is just the usual stuff about the evils of the UN human rights machinery. I agree that machinery is gravely deficient.

The necessary reforms are to ensure that nations which do not comply with the 'International Bill of Rights' do not get seats on the UN Human Rights Commission. Weakening the machinery of compliance does not assist those reforms. Its just another case of the Howard government saying they'll decide who monitors our human rights performance and under what conditions.

In nations where (unlike Australia) there are regular and gross violations of human rights, we just made it a lot easier to argue against inspections by invoking the shibboleth of national sovereignty.

No comments: