Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has hit back at UN criticism of Australia's treatment of asylum seekers.
The incoming UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, used his first speech in Geneva to censure the Abbott government's policy of processing asylum seekers offshore and turning back boats.
The policy was leading to a chain of human rights violations including arbitrary detention and possible torture after asylum seekers were returned to home countries, he said.
The likely resettlement of processed refugees on Nauru to ill-equipped countries such as Cambodia was also a concern.
Mr Morrison rejected Mr Al Hussein's criticism.
"The most flagrant abuse of human rights I am aware of is the beheading and crucifying of people in Syria and Iraq, where Australia is seeking to relieve the humanitarian crisis," he said in a statement on Tuesday.
Mr Morrison indicated he would be pleased to meet with the commissioner to discuss his concerns.
Human rights lawyer, Daniel Webb, said it's embarrassing for Australia to be mentioned in the speech which he says highlights the seriousness with which Australia's flagrant breaches of international law are regarded on the world stage.
The speech runs to 8 pages and the mention of Australia is a one sentence reference on page 7.
"This is the new UN human right chief's maiden speech and in it he's addressed the most acute human rights abuses occuring in the world right now," he told SBS.
"In addition to that, he's seen fit to specifically mention the chain of human rights violations that are being produced by Australia's asylum seeker policies."
Greg Dyett speaks with Daniel Webb
"I think it's a sign of the seriousness with which Australia's breaches of international law are regarded on the world stage."
The speech covered a range of other issues including Syria and Iraq.
Mr Al Hussein, from Jordan, replaces South African Navi Pillay as commissioner.