• The graphic images of the abuse suffered by Dylan Voller and inmates at the Don Dale Detention Centre led to the inquiry. (ABC)Source: ABC
A Human Rights Watch report has criticised Australia’s poor handling of serious human rights issues, citing the mistreatment of children in detention centres, the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in prison, and 'draconian' asylum seeker policies.
13 Jan 2017 - 1:49 PM  UPDATED 13 Jan 2017 - 1:49 PM

Australia's track record on human rights has been damaged by a new global report released by Human Rights Watch condemning the country’s failure to address issues such as the protection children in detention, its limits to the rights of people with disabilities, its "draconian" asylum seeker policy, its overly broad counterterrorism laws, and lack of marriage equality.

The report also denounces Indigenous adults are 13 times more likely to be imprisoned in Australia than non-indigenous counterparts.

Human Rights Watch also pointed to the footage released of "horrific treatment of children held in Northern Territory and Queensland youth detention centres".

The CCTV video showed tear-gassing, hooding, shackling and stripping of children at a youth detention facility in the Northern Territory.

"Despite the report, Territory officials failed to act," the report states.

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Human Rights Watch reviewed more than 90 countries in its 687-page report and Australia's asylum seeker policy drew most criticism for the nation.

"Refugees and asylum seekers languish in limbo after years of detention, and new laws will subject children to easy-to-abuse control orders," Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch, said.

Human Rights Watch recommends Australia take responsibility for the refugees it placed in Papua New Guinea and Nauru and end the system of offshore asylum processing and detention.

"If Australia wants to be a global human rights leader, then it should take immediate steps to end these unlawful policies."

The organisation also criticised Australia for having a double-standard when it comes to human rights.

"Australia raises human rights concerns in other countries, but does so very selectively," the report states.

"It seldom raises human rights concerns publicly about countries it works closely with in interdicting asylum seekers and refugees, or with which it has significant trade relations."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's introduction last year of counter-terrorism laws was described by Human Rights Watch as incrementally chipping away at fundamental rights.

"Indefinite and arbitrary detention of prisoners who have already served their time undermines the rule of law, a crucial component of countering terrorism," Ms Pearson said.

"While Australia has a responsibility to protect its citizens from harm, this shouldn't come at the cost of undermining basic rights."

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