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International experts set to examine Australia's preventive detention record

The month-long detention of Australian human rights lawyer Melinda Taylor in Libya shines the spotlight on Australia’s own track record of detaining people who have not been convicted of any crime.

On July 27-28, legal experts from the UK and USA will join some of Australia’s leading experts at Bond University for a two-day conference to examine our controversial preventive detention practices relating to the mandatory detention of asylum seekers and the incarceration of people who are mentally ill or judged a risk to society.

“Australians are quick to protest breaches of international human rights laws when it comes to the treatment of our citizens but our own record is less than perfect,” said Professor Patrick Keyzer, Executive Director of the Centre for Law, Governance and Public Policy and Associate Dean Teaching, Learning and Curriculum of Bond University’s Faculty of Law.

“Few countries in the world enforce a policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers or incarcerate mentally ill people who have not been convicted of a crime.

“A number of Australian preventive detention regimes violate our international human rights obligations.  Australia would react strongly if our own citizens were treated like this in other countries, yet we tolerate it here.”

Preventive Detention: Asking the Fundamental Questions has attracted a raft of global experts in the field of human rights, including keynote speakers Baroness Vivien Stern, a member of the UK’s House of Lords who serves on the Board of the International Centre for Prison Studies and also Professor Andrew Coyle who serves as prisons advisor to the UN High Commission for Human Rights.

“As the name of the conference suggests, we will be examining Australia’s preventive detention policies and practices and asking fundamental questions about their appropriateness,” said Professor Keyzer.

“How do they work in practice? What effect do they have on the detainees? Do they achieve the desired outcomes? Do they comply with international human rights laws? And, most importantly, is there a better solution than detention?”

According to Professor Keyzer, there are hundreds of people held in prison-like facilities as a result of Australia’s preventive detention policies.

 “Whilst detention may be appropriate in some instances to protect the community, deprivations of liberty should always be narrowly-tailored” said Professor Keyzer.
“Some people in prison in the Northern Territory who have been deemed unfit to plead due to cognitive impairment have been locked up in prison for years.

“By examining the various state laws and Commonwealth policies that allow for preventive detention, the aim of the conference is to develop a range of recommendations in relation to Australian regulation and public policy.”

For more information and conference registrations for Preventive Detention: Asking the Fundamental Questions at Bond University on July 27-28, contact Ms Veronica Jones, Manager of the Centre for Law, Governance and Public Policy at [email protected].

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