27/03/09: GLOBAL FOCUS ON AUSTRALIA’S RACISM

Contents:
UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD)
Australia’s bid for a seat on UN Security Council
Reports by NGOs to UN Human Rights Committee
UN Durban Review Conference (on racism), Geneva, 20-24 Apr 09

UN COMMITTEE FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION (UN CERD):

The original complaint to the UN CERD:

Human Rights Law Resource Centre:
Indigenous Rights: Request for Urgent Action on
NT Intervention from UN CERD (Jan 2009)
http://www.hrlrc.org.au/html/s02_article/article_view.asp?id=450&nav_cat_id=133&nav_top_id=56
Jan 09: “The Centre is acting for a group of 20 Indigenous
Australians affected by the Northern Territory Intervention
– introduced by the Howard Government and continued by the
Rudd Government – who have submitted a Request for Urgent
Action to the United Nations saying that Australia is in
breach of its obligations under the International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination.”

Letter in response to the complaint:

Letter to Government of Australia from UN CERD:
[scroll down the page] http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/story/australia-promises-end-racial-discrimination
13 Mar 09: “The Committee’s attention has been drawn to
reports according to which measures being implemented to
achieve the objectives contained in the Northern Territory
Emergency Response (NTER) have allegedly led to serious
discrimination against Aboriginal persons in certain
communities of the Northern Territory. The Committee notes
with concern that the Racial Discrimination Act was
suspended as a necessity to enact the measures contained in
the NTER.” Fatimata-Binta Victoire Dah, Chairperson of the
Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Media Releases about the letter:

Australia promises to end racial discrimination
http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/story/australia-promises-end-racial-discrimination
18 Mar 09: “FAIRA welcomes the news at the international
level that the Committee for the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination have adjudged the Northern Territory
intervention laws to be a breach of international law.
[See Annex below] The Committee has called upon the
Government of Australia to report in four months time
[31 July 2009] on the progress it has made to reinstate the
Racial Discrimination Act and build a new relationship with
Aboriginal Australia. Apparently the Government has
promised to the Committee that the Racial Discrimination Act
will be reinstated in Australia in September 2009, thus
ensuring that there is no legal discrimination against the
Aboriginal people.” Les Malezer, Chairperson of the
Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA)

Greens: United Nations concern over NT Intervention
http://rachel-siewert.greensmps.org.au/content/media-release/united-nations-concern-over-nt-intervention
19 Mar 09: “The Australian Greens today welcomed reports
that the United Nations has written to the Australian
Government expressing concern over racist elements of the
Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER). “This is the
slap of realism that this Government desperately needs. The
international community are crying out against this
blatantly racist intervention, which is serving as a major
embarrassment for us on a global stage,” said Australian
Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal Issues Senator Rachel
Siewert.”

News:

Australia Network News:
Australia under scrutiny over racial discrimination
http://australianetworknews.com/stories/200903/2520518.htm?desktop
19 Mar 09: “A United Nations committee says its concerned
about the Australian Government’s suspension of the Racial
Discrimination Act. … The UN Committee on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination has responded to a request for
urgent action from the Prescribed Areas People’s Alliance.
A lawyer representing the aboriginal rights group, George
Newhouse, says the international scrutiny is welcome.”

Australian:
UN ‘concerned’ over suspension of Racial Discrimination Act
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25209009-5006790,00.html
19 Mar 09: “Committee for the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination chairman Fatimata-Binta Victoire Dah has
written a two-page letter to the Government requesting a
progress report on Kevin Rudd’s promise to reinstate the
Racial Discrimination Act, which was suspended by the
Howard government.”

AUSTRALIA’S BID FOR A SEAT ON UN SECURITY COUNCIL:

Letter to the UN missions:

Australia’s continued human rights violations
and abuses of Aboriginal peoples
http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/story/worlds-governments-being-asked-help-aborigines
23 Mar 09: “Your Excellency, We enter into this
correspondence with you to highlight the fact that Australia
has not earned the right to have permanency status on the UN
Security Council. Australia is the only country in the world
that has a constitution that allows for the imposition of
laws and/or regulations that target specific racial groups.
… Australia must be held accountable by the international
community for its Human Rights breaches and abuses against
Aboriginal Peoples in Australia and its strident opposition
to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
This is why we have criticised Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd’s
ambition to seek permanency status on the UN Security
Council. Australia has not earned this right and
responsibility.” Michael Anderson, Leader of Euahlayi Nation

Media Release:

Aboriginal people to oppose Rudd’s bid for Australia to
join the UN Security Council
http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/story/aboriginal-people-oppose-rudd-s-bid-australia-join-un-security-council
10 Mar 09: “Michael Anderson, cofounder of Aboriginal
Embassy and leader of the Euahlayi nation in northwest New
South Wales said today: “The Minister for Aboriginal
Affairs, Jenny Macklin, has made a pathetic attempt to
blackmail Aboriginal people of NSW into signing over their
lands for forty year leases to the Commonwealth government
so that social and welfare housing and other infrastructure
can be put in place. This is totally immoral and
unethical.” … “To have Quentin Bryce, the
Governor-General, going to African nation states to lobby
them to support Australia’s nomination to the UN Security
Council is hypocrisy. Aboriginal people now need to lobby as
many African states as possible against supporting
Australia’s nomination to the UN Security Council.” ”

News:

SMH: Rights record under scrutiny in UN seat bid
http://www.smh.com.au/world/rights-record-under-scrutiny-in-un-seat-bid-20090321-94z4.html
22 Mar 09: “PRIME MINISTER Kevin Rudd’s dream of winning a
UN Security Council seat might be dashed by international
concerns about Australia’s record on human rights.
Australia’s poor treatment of its indigenous population and
refugees will come under scrutiny by an international human
rights watchdog, amid continuing lobbying for a seat on the
prestigious UN body that oversees military and peace-keeping
operations.”

REPORTS BY NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS (NGOs)
TO UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE:

Human Rights Committee 95th Session (16 Mar – 3 Apr 09) New York
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/hrcs95.htm
Includes NGO reports re Australia from:

  • Amnesty International
  • Conscience and Peace Tax International
  • Human Rights Law Resource Centre
  • ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)
  • International Human Rights Law Society of

Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis

  • National Association of Community Legal Centres
  • New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties
  • Law Council of Australia

Amnesty reports to UN on Australia’s human rights failures
http://www.amnesty.org.au/news/comments/20482/
16 Mar 09: “Amnesty International has presented the United
Nations with a detailed report (pdf size: 377kb) setting
out its concerns about Australia’s failure to comply with
some of the country’s obligations under the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. …  “Reinstating
protections against racial discrimination under the
Northern Territory Intervention is a crucial next step for
the Australian Government to take to improve its human
rights record,” Dr Seth-Purdie said. The organisation’s
report said that supporting the UN Declaration of the Rights
of Indigenous Peoples, and using its principles as a guide,
would assist the Government to close the gap and ensure
ICCPR rights are made fully available to Indigenous
Australians.”

UN DURBAN REVIEW CONFERENCE (ON RACISM), GENEVA, 20-24 APRIL 2009:

News:

Age: Human rights group to attend UN racism forum
http://www.theage.com.au/national/human-rights-group-to-attend-un-racism-forum-20090323-97ha.html?page=-1
24 Mar 09: “AUSTRALIA’S top human rights body [Australian
Human Rights Commission] will attend a United Nations forum
on racism in Geneva next month, despite heavy pressure from
Jewish groups and the Opposition for an official boycott.
Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner Tom Calma will
lead an Australian delegation to the talks — known as the
Durban Review Conference. … UN Association of Australia
president John Langmore said it was important Australia join
the conference.”

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