UN wants review of ‘gag’ law
Australia’s government has become increasingly secretive through a range of new laws, including a gag on officials speaking out about conditions at an Australia-run immigration camp in Nauru, a United Nations human rights investigator said yesterday. Michel Forst, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, recommended that Australia review its secrecy laws, including the “stifling” Border Force Act, to remove provisions that contravene human rights principles. The Attorney-General’s Department said Forst did not present a balanced view, but that the government would consider his recommendations. Australian doctors have initiated a court challenge to the Border Force Act, which they argue gags them from speaking publicly about child abuse and other threats to asylum seekers and refugees held in the Pacific atoll nation of Nauru. The law was introduced last year as part of a widely criticised policy of sending all asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australia by boat to Nauru or to the South Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea. The Australian military-run Operation Sovereign Borders, which rankles Indonesia and human rights advocates because it involves turning back boats and rejecting refugee applications at sea, is shrouded in secrecy.