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Revoke Australia's seat at the UN Human Rights Council

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Mr Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli, President of the Human Rights Council

Mr António Guterres, Secretary-General

United Nations

We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Australia, appeal to the United Nations to revoke Australia’s seat at the Human Rights Council in the United Nations. In addition, we urge the United Nations to take actions to force Australia to significantly improve the implementation of human rights principles and policies.  

In the past decade, Australia has consistently failed to honour its human rights obligations, both domestically and internationally. As such, believe that our country does not deserve a seat at the Human Rights Council in the United Nations.

And these are our reasons:

1) Australia blatantly ignores its obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention that it became a party to on January 22, 1954.

Australia’s offshore detention policy, which prevents humanitarian rescue and aid for refugees and asylum seekers, contravenes the terms of the convention. The current and ongoing humanitarian crisis on Manus Island is a direct result of this cold-hearted policy. This crisis has worsened since the Australian government sent home the detention centre staff, turned off the water, stopped the food supply, cut off the electricity and withdrew medication to the 600 vulnerable people placed there, people who had risked their lives to cross the seas to seek a better future in Australia, but they were confined under indefinite detention instead. Médecins Sans Frontières has been denied access to check on the health and well-being of these men.

2) Article 33 of the UN Refugee Convention outlines the principle of non-refoulement: that a refugee cannot be sent to a place where they may be persecuted.

Abandoning 600 people in an area of a country where violent incidents have repeatedly been reported is a clear contravention of this article. Australia has a long history of failure in this regard. On March 20, 2015, the Australian navy intercepted 46 Vietnamese asylum seekers at sea, and sent them back to the country they were fleeing from a month later. While in July the year before, Australian authorities detained 157 Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka and held them at sea for a month. It then took them to the mainland, before secretly flying them to the detention centre on Nauru, where there have been well-documented human rights abuses.

3) Freedom of expression: the Australian government has created the conditions that led to the arrest of Iranian-Kurdish journalist and long-term Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani.

Boochani, who had been reporting on the situation from the frontline, was arrested by PNG authorities on 23.11.2017. The Australian government has illegally forbidden personnel that have work in Australian-controlled detention centres to report to the Australian public on the situation in these camps. Australian journalists are also prevented from entering these camps to report on conditions there.

4) One of the five pillars of Australia’s bid for the UNHRC seat is to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia have suffered continuous human rights violations for more than two centuries. The overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in prison, the deaths in custody, the ongoing removal of children from their families under departments of community services, some of the highest suicide rates in the world, the continuing discrimination in all areas of life, the military approach towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (the Northern Territory Intervention since 2017; military patrolling in Alice Spring in recent days), and the denial of sovereign rights – these constitute the government' policy towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.

These infringements of human and civil rights disqualify Australia as a nation worthy of a seat Human Rights Council in the United Nations.

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