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Melbourne Commission's register of fading human rights

Australia is retreating from children's rights and political ignorance of human rights generally is at its worst in 50 years, according to the annual human rights register of Melbourne Archdiocesan Commission for Justice, Development and Peace.

The register, to be released today, also attacks the nation's part in the Iraq war and the pace of Aboriginal reconciliation. It says Australia's human rights record deteriorated markedly this year and it accuses the Federal Government of charting a morally dangerous course by failing to protect people's rights.

Of the 325 entries in the Australian Human Rights Register, 227 are negative, representing violations of human rights or a lack of respect for people's rights.

It identifies the worst violation as the imprisonment of 183 children and their parents in detention centres in Australia and in Nauru.

Commission executive officer Marc Purcell said: "The Prime Minister should not condone this cruel practice any further. It is nasty, brutal and wrong."

He said the Government's opposition to the Family Court's recent attempt to remove five children from detention, on the basis that the Convention of the Rights of the Child was irrelevant, revealed an abandonment of any pretence of protecting children's human rights.

A Just Australia will report today that the number of children in immigration detention has risen in the past month, and children now make up 33 per cent of detainees on Nauru.

It says there are 188 children in detention, including 93 in the "Topside" centre, Nauru, where they may remain indefinitely.

"Australians don't want children locked up . . . It is severely damaging to keep these children in detention any longer," A Just Australia national director Howard Glenn said.

He welcomed Opposition Leader Mark Latham's call for the children to be released by Christmas.

The Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace is scathing in its criticism of Australia's part in the war in Iraq. "We broke with the UN efforts to prevent war and joined America in an illegal invasion," Mr Purcell said.

"As a result, between 21,000 and 55,000 people are dead and our government is morally responsible for contributing to their deaths."

The commission's report criticises the undermining of civil rights by anti-terrorism laws and the emphasis by state, territory and federal governments on running large budget surpluses at the expense of social advancement.

"Human rights are not something that apply only overseas," Mr Purcell said.

Church hits fading rights (The Age 10/12/03)

Media Launch: 10 December Human Rights Day -- Catholic Commission For Justice, Development & Peace [Melbourne]
The Australian Human Rights Register for 2002-2003 (Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace, Melbourne)

10 Dec 2003