Australian PM in hot water over allegations of ‘systematic torture’ of Nauru refugees

Published October 18th, 2016 - 07:00 GMT
A protest in Sydney against the treatment of refugees on Nauru. (AFP/File)
A protest in Sydney against the treatment of refugees on Nauru. (AFP/File)

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has rejected claims by Amnesty International that the abuse and ill treatment of refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru amounts to "deliberate" and "systematic torture."

"I reject that claim totally ... it is absolutely false," Turnbull told local ABC radio on Tuesday.

In a devastating report released late Monday, Amnesty accused Australia of running an open-air prison on the Pacific island nation, where more than one thousand asylum seekers and refugees have been languishing for the past three years.

Australia has intercepted all asylum seekers travelling to the country by sea since 2013, either turning their boats back or processing them offshore in Nauru or on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

Anna Neistat, Amnesty's senior director for research, told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday that the treatment of those people by the Australian government amounted to "torture."

"We don't come to these conclusions easily ... The nature of the harm caused, the systematic [policy] - this is not an isolated incident, the fact that this is done deliberately with a clear purpose [of creating] a deterrence to punish."

"All of these elements taken together leads us to conclude that the treatment amounts to torture," she said.

Turnbull on Tuesday reiterated that his government's commitment to border protection was "compassionate" and "strong."

"What we've been able to do is to stop the boats, no deaths at sea. We have reduced the children in detention from almost 2000 when we came into office to zero," he said.

But Neistat said that that was "technically not true," since people were still dying in international waters, just not near Australia.

"They are saving lives but at what costs? As one refugee (in Nauru) said they are dying a thousand times every day."


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