Australia rejects UN torture investigator's findings on asylum seeker policy

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Juan Ernesto Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture. UN Photo/Loey Felipe (file)

Australia defended its policy on detaining asylum-seekers Monday at the UN Human Rights Council, rejecting a high-level report which claimed it was in breach of international norms.

In his rebuttal of findings by UN torture investigator Juan Mendez, Australian ambassador John Quinn's insisted that "irregular maritime arrivals" were treated with respect and their human rights protected.

The ambassador's statement follows comments by Australian prime minister Tony Abbott that Australians were "sick of being lectured" by the UN about its policy on sea migrants.

Derrick Mbatha reports.

Special rapporteur Juan Mendez said that sending migrants back to places where they might be at risk – known as refoulement – could not be justified.

Neither could confinement, said the human rights investigator, whose report details violations in more than 60 other countries.

Focusing on children, Mr Mendez said such ill-treatment caused them irreversible damage even when this was not the state's intention, citing their "unique vulnerability".

But Australian ambassador John Quinn denied that his country was at fault and added that it "worked to stop human rights abuses which arise from people smuggling".

"Australia ensures that irregular maritime arrivals including children are treated with respect, dignity and their human rights are protected."

Among the other countries covered in the report, Mexico denied that torture was generalised as had been claimed.

The South American country's delegation also pointed to upcoming legislation that will criminalise torture and enforced disappearances.

Derrick Mbatha, United Nations.

Duration: 1'18"

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