11 November 2014


The United Nations Committee Against Torture is the latest international body to express serious concerns about the Australian Government's immigration policies and about conditions at offshore detention centres at Nauru and Manus Island.

At the committee meeting in Geneva this week responses were requested from Australia about asylum seeker policy which has been described as as "cruel" and "inhumane".

The UN committee has also requested answers to allegations of sexual abuse and the death of Reza Berati. It was also noted that in the two years since Australia sent the first asylum seeker to Manus, two have died but not one has been processed and re-settled.

The Committee hearing followed comments from the incoming UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordan's Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein in his first speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva who criticised Australia's asylum seeker policy, saying it has lead to a chain of human rights violations. "Australia's policy of offshore processing for asylum seekers arriving by sea, and its interception and turning back of vessels, is leading to a chain of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and possible torture following return to home countries," he said.

The killing and torture of asylum seekers forcibly returned to Afghanistan by Australia was also highlighted in a recent statement from Phil Glendenning the President of the Refugee Council of Australia and Director of the Edmund Rice Centre in Sydney.

In a separate event also in Geneva the International Council of Voluntary Agencies, representing many of the world’s NGOs, told the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Executive Committee meeting in Geneva that it remained “deeply disturbed by the continuing deterioration of protection standards for asylum seekers in Australia”

Meanwhile the recent Senate estimates hearing revealed that it cost the Australian taxpayer one thousand million dollars to detain 2200 asylum seekers in 2013.  As an alternative the Refugee Council of Australia  argues that releasing asylum seekers from detention after they have passed initial health, identity and security checks, and allowing them to live in the community while their applications are processed, greatly reduces the human and financial costs of immigration detention while also ensuring that potential risks to the community to be managed effectively.

Students and staff members from around thirty Edmund Rice Schools around Australia also took part in the ‘detention for detention’ event last month in a protest against the Australian government’s policy of detaining children in immigration detention.The photo shows staff and students from Christian Brothers College Lewisham
taking part in the 'detention for detention' protest.


The world's top scientists have given their clearest warning yet of the severe and irreversible impacts of climate change.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently released its synthesis report, a summary of its last three reports. The report warns that greenhouse gas levels are at their highest they have been in 800,000 years, with recent increases mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels.

The synthesis report – the culmination of six years work, with the input of more 2,000 scientists - is described as the most important yet made and says the world needs to act quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically; it needs to decarbonise its energy systems; it needs to stop burning coal, and it needs to shift investment from fossil fuels to clean energy.

All four recommendations are diametrically opposes to the current policy positions of the Australian government, which has dumped the carbon price and ignored calls to scale up its reduction targets; which is trying to so slow down or even stop the deployment of renewable energy; which insists that coal is the primary energy source of the future; and which labels calls for divestment of fossil fuels as “stupid”.


More than 300 human rights organizations, frontline service providers and advocates  are urging the Associated Press (AP) to refrain from using terms such as "sex work" and "sex worker" because they legitimize prostitution as a form of "work" and conceal the violent and exploitive nature of the commercial sex trade.

In an open letter to AP more than 300 people including the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women  and human rights activists from 40 nations asked the AP to adopt alternative vocabulary that reflects the life realities of individuals bought and sold in prostitution.

Studies and testimony of survivors demonstrate that the sex industry is predicated on dehumanization, degradation, and gender violence that cause life-long physical and psychological harm. Between 65 and 96 percent of people in prostitution have been sexually assaulted as children; 60 to 75 percent have been raped by pimps and sex purchasers; and between 70 and 95 percent have been physically assaulted in prostitution.

Vednita Carter, the Founder of the survivor-led organization 'Breaking Free', added "The term 'sex work' was coined by supporters of the sex industry to normalize prostitution and mask the injuries it inflicts on those exploited in it.

The letter also recommends against the use of the word "prostitute" and suggests alternative language including "person in prostitution," "prostituted person" or "commercially sexually exploited person." Instead of "sex work," the advocates propose "sex industry," "sex trade," or "prostitution." The letter also states that "teen prostitute," "teen prostitution" and "child sex worker" have no place in responsible journalism and must be replaced by "sex trafficked child."


On 25th September a further eight countries ratified the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).  With over 50 governments having completed their ratification the Treaty is now set to enter into force and become binding international law on 24th December 2014.

The coming into force of the treaty was the culmination of the efforts of millions of people (including readers of this bulletin) who called for action and demanded an end to this irresponsible arms trade.

To mark this achievement Control Arms  has launched an online gallery which features photos and quotes from 50 individuals from across civil society, government and the UN whose support was vital to the achievement of the Arms Trade Treaty

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