Date: 
Thursday 23 November 2017

Australian Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow is calling on the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea to honour their international human rights obligations and avoid use of force on Manus Island.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has been monitoring the situation as it develops and has sought further detail on the events of today.

The presence of authorities at the Manus Island facility today is of particular concern to the Commission, which strongly supports the view of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, that violence must be avoided.

“Our approach should be one of protection and support,” Commissioner Santow said.

“Using force against a vulnerable and traumatised group of people would not be an acceptable response. 

“We know many of these people have complex physical and mental health needs.” 

Under international human rights law, the use of force must always be a last resort but especially in the case of vulnerable groups, Commissioner Santow said. 

“Australian and PNG authorities must enter into a constructive dialogue with the men on Manus Island.  This situation can and should be resolved in a way that protects their human rights.”

The UNHCR has described the situation as a “humanitarian emergency”.

In a recent briefing note, UNHCR’s Deputy Regional Representative in Canberra Nai Jit Lam, said: “UNHCR reiterates its call to both Australia and Papua New Guinea to ensure the situation on Manus Island is resolved peacefully.”

Media contact:
Rania Spooner

0419 258 597

rania.spooner@humanrights.gov.au