The United Nation’s special rapporteur on torture has defended his report which found Australia was violating the rights of asylum seekers.
The report drew a terse reaction from Prime Minister Tony Abbott who said Australia was “sick of being lectured to by the UN”.
But special rapporteur Juan Mendez rejected the accusation, saying Australia faced the same expectations as any other country.
“I’m sorry that he considers what we do lecturing, we don’t, we think it’s our role,” Mr Mendez told ABC radio on Tuesday.
“We treat every country the same way. We just try to uphold international standards as we understand them.”
Mr Mendez said he was his duty to point out when any country, including Australia, fell short of its international obligations.
Mr Mendez’s report found Australia was violating the rights of asylum seekers, especially in the detention of children and violence in offshore processing centres, under the UN convention.
Mr Mendez praised Australia for having “a very robust, democratic system with guarantees of human rights for everybody” and suggested that broad discussion of the issue was more valuable in the long term than Mr Abbott’s comments.
“At least we are getting a robust debate in Australia, and that’s more important to me than the initial reaction of government,” he said.
“In many other cases we get governments that either brush us off or don’t respond at all, so I’d rather get an intemperate response than no response.
“And in the meantime, if we can help stir some debate, because I know that the debate is already going on in Australia with or without my participation, I think that’s a way things can correct, and performance of government can get improved.”
The UN report follows the recent publication of a report by Australia’s own Human Rights Commission which likewise condemned the country’s treatment of asylum seekers, also highlighting the detention of children, by both the current and former governments.
IMAGE: Library image of protester against Australia’s asylum seeker detention policy (Shutterstock.com)