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Human Rights

Latest News

Solitary Confinement – A Breach of Human Rights
State-Sanctioned Sexual Assault: The Rally to Ban Strip Searches at Silverwater Gaol
Ban Strip Search NSW Coalition – Protest on 19 November 2020
Sign the Petition to Ban Strip Searches in NSW!
Detainee Call: Advisory Group Position
OPCAT Implementation Analysis
Analysis: OPCAT Progress in South Australia

Contents

  1. The Optional Protocol to the Conventional against Torture (OPCAT)
  2. Strip Searching in NSW Prisons
  3. Solitary Confinement
  4. Computers in Cells
  5. Freedom of Expression 
  6. Right to Vote
  7. Freedom of Association

Overview 

Justice Action strives to protect the human rights of the most vulnerable people in our community, particularly prisoners. Prisoners are often deprived of their liberties, and their human rights are greatly limited by their environment and circumstances. 

At present, Justice Action is engaged with Australia’s implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). As part of this campaign, we have conducted research on solitary confinement and the strip searching of women. Prisoners’ right to safety and bodily integrity are impeded by these practices, which impose degrading, humiliating and traumatic experiences upon them. Through our investigations we have been able to provide a set of recommendations to better uphold Australia’s commitment to and obligations under the OPCAT. During this period, Justice Action has also extended its focus to issues stemming from COVID-19. Also found on this page are earlier campaigns relating to prisoners’ Right to Vote, Freedom of Expression, and Freedom of Association.

OPCAT

The United Nations’ Optional Protocol for the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (OPCAT) was ratified by the Australian Government in December 2017. The Protocol affirms that torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are prohibited and constitute serious violations of human rights. Justice Action is advocating for an effective implementation of OPCAT in places of detention within Australia. JA has put together an analysis of the current implementation of OPCAT and provided a series of recommendations. This report can be found here.

Strip Searching

Justice Action are advocating for the abolition of the practice of strip searching, specifically within Australian correctional centres. Strip searches constitute a direct breach of Australia’s obligations under OPCAT. The degrading and invasive nature of strip searches and its harmful psychological effects, render the practice an inappropriate and excessive measure for the purposes of  assuring prison safety. Recently, we co-hosted a ‘Ban Strip Search’ protest, and have uploaded a research paper on the issue.

Solitary Confinement

Justice Actions has identified solitary confinement as a breach of Australia’s commitment to OPCAT (Optional Protocol for the Convention Against Torture). Despite significant physical and mental ramifications for those detained, solitary confinement practices (the isolation of a person in a cell for at least 22 hours a day without meaningful human contact) are used routinely within Australia. Our report on Solitary Confinement goes into further detail about the practice, and our recommendations going forward.

Computers in Cells

Justice action has advocated for the implementation of in-cell technology for inmates to access online education, mental health and legal services. This has proved particularly significant during the COVID period, as distancing measures can have an increasingly detrimental impact on inmates’ mental health. Prisoners spend around 18 hours a day in their cells and the use of technology would greatly increase their productivity and encourage self-improvement. Through this, Justice Action successfully facilitated the transition of Computer tablets into five prisons with all prisoners having them in their cells. These tablets are connected to the internet with whitelisted websites and a phone

Freedom of Expression

Right to Vote

Freedom of Association


Minorities and Consorting Laws

Justice Action recognises that consorting laws represent a current issue that needs to be highlighted. Recently, the Justice Action team compiled a consorting paper to provide information to the NSW Ombudsman about the impact of the consorting provisions on prisoners, ex-prisoners and the services providing these programs. A case note analysing the High Court’s decision can be found here.

High Court Upholds Consorting Laws – Tajjour v New South Wales

The High Court recently held that the consorting provisions in sections 93X and 93Y of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) were constitutionally valid. This case note analyses the Court’s decision.

Building on our submission to the Ombudsman, it argues that the decision of the Court is apt to creat confusion surrounding the offence, and fails to recognise the inappropriateness of consorting as a means of combatting organised crime. It contends that the continued reluctance of the High Court to recognise a free-standing freedom of association is particularly problematic. It also analyses the response to the Attorney-General to the decision, which countenances the use of consorting as a police power.

Click here to read the pdf


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