Since 2008, successive Australian governments have carried out a policy of preventing migrants arriving by boat from settling on the mainland, implementing an offshore detention and asylum processing scheme. As leaks revealed, these privatized facilities entail long-term detention in inhumane conditions, often including physical and sexual abuse of adults and children. The conditions and resulting hopelessness have caused what experts describe as “epidemic levels” of self-harm among those held on these islands. Based on original research, the communication is the most comprehensive submission on crimes against humanity perpetrated outside of context of war.
Migrants detained on Manus Island
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GLAN and the Stanford International Human Rights Clinic have submitted a communication to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. With input from an international coalition of legal experts the petition calls for an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed by Australian officials and private companies against refugees and asylum seekers held offshore in Nauru and Manus Island. This action builds on academic research by Dr Itamar Mann, GLAN member and Senior Lecturer at Haifa University and Dr Ioannis Kalpouzos, GLAN member and Lecturer at City Law School, University of London. Specifically, the action uses arguments developed by Dr Mann and in collaboration with Dr Kalpouzos on the need for the International Criminal Court to shift its focus from 'spectacular' violence to 'banal' or 'normalised' violence that appears as an inevitable by-product of global social and economic structures.
Stanford Law School visited Australia and collected first-hand accounts on the detention centres which are administered by Ferrovial, a Spanish corporation and several other private, commercial contractors in areas such as transportation, vetting and equipment supply. Ms Diala Shamas, Clinical Supervising Attorney and Lecturer in Law at the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic led the research at Stanford.
At the time the detnetion centres were administered by Ferrovial, a Spanish corporation and several other private, commercial contractors in areas such as transportation, vetting and equipment supply. Stanford and its partners had previously put Ferrovial officials on notice about potential liability for crimes against humanity.
On February 12 2020, the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor formally responded to our communication finding that ICC has jurisdiction over the situation in Nauru and Manus Island. However, it also found the conditions of off-shore detention centre qualified as the “underlying act” of the crime against humanity of imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty, Art. 7(1)(e) of the Rome Statute.