AUSTRALIA’S offshore immigration detention regime could constitute a crime against humanity, a petition before the International Criminal Court from a coalition of legal experts has alleged.
On Monday morning, a 108-page legal submission from the Global Legal Action Network (Glan) and the Stanford International Human Rights Clinic was submitted to the court, detailing what the network describes as the “harrowing practices of the Australian state and corporations towards asylum seekers”.
The petition submits the office of the prosecutor of the ICC should open an investigation into possible “crimes against humanity committed by individuals and corporate actors”.
“As recent leaks reveal, these privatised facilities entail long-term detention in inhumane conditions, often including physical and sexual abuse of adults and children,” Glan said in a statement.
“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.”
Heads of government and other state officials are not immune from prosecution by the ICC, but the prosecution of an Australian government official – either sitting or retired – would be unprecedented.
The prosecutor would need to be convinced Australia’s crimes constituted “a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack”.
The operation of the International Criminal Court is governed by the Rome Statute, to which Australia, which controls the offshore detention regimes on Nauru and Manus, is a party.
Article 7 of the Rome Statute defines a crime against humanity as, among nine other offences, “deportation or forcible transfer of populations; imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law”.
Glan is a non-profit legal organisation, based in London and Dublin, pursuing legal actions to address human rights violations in the global south.