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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                            

Commonwealth of Australia

Australia provides protection from the illegitimate use of force, and Australians have means to seek redress for harm. Prison conditions mostly meet international standards. However, conditions at numerous juvenile detention centers are substandard.

The use of solitary confinement has become controversial, with the Victoria state ombudsman calling for the end of its use in September 2019. The ombudsman noted that children and adolescents were sometimes placed in solitary confinement.

 [Freedom House Country Report, 2020]

Description: Description: Description: Australia

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Australia.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Australia

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 4 July 2021]


Physical Conditions: The most recent data from the Australian Institute of Criminology reported 72 prison deaths in 2017-18. Media sources alleged at least seven suspicious deaths occurred since August 2019, two of which occurred in 2020. Death rates for indigenous Australian prisoners continued higher than for others. For example, in June and July, three Aboriginal prisoners died (two by suicide, the third of unknown causes) in Western Australia prisons.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 14 May 2020]


Australia provides protection from the illegitimate use of force, and Australians have means to seek redress for harm. Prison conditions mostly meet international standards. However, conditions at numerous juvenile detention centers are substandard. Some children have instead been detained in adult prisons. In May 2019, an ABC investigative program reported on the practice of placing minor detainees in “watch houses,” maximum security facilities usually reserved for violent adult offenders.

The use of solitary confinement has become controversial, with the Victoria state ombudsman calling for the end of its use in September 2019. The ombudsman noted that children and adolescents were sometimes placed in solitary confinement.

Australia excludes offshore detention facilities from torture prevention obligation

Tamil guardian, 16 December 2017

[accessed 16 December 2017]

The Australian government confirmed it had excluded offshore detention facilities in the islands of Manus and Nauru in its obligation to prevent the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of people in detention, following the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) this week.

The move has been widely criticised by human rights groups who have long cited ongoing allegations of torture of asylum seekers detained within the facilities, which include a number of Tamils who have fled Sri Lanka.

Groups urge national youth justice changes

Australian Associated Press AAP, 20 Nov 2017

[accessed 20 November 2017]

"We are deeply concerned at the worsening rate at which Australia is locking up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, which is now 25 times the rate of non-indigenous children," they say.

"In addition to removing children from their families and communities, children are being subjected to prolonged abuse including isolation, restraint chairs, spit hoods and tear gas in youth prisons."

Legal body slams PM’s torture response

Lawyers Weekly, 17 March, 2015

[accessed 31 March 2015]

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture's finding of abuses in immigration detention has been labelled by the Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, as “absolutely bizarre” and he questioned its credibility.

Ms Hammerton suggested the UN report shows Australia was in breach of its obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.

“As well as prohibiting torture, the convention extends to acts of degrading treatment such as the inflicting of severe physical or mental pain and suffering,” she said.

“The report outlines numerous examples of instances where physical and mental suffering has been inflicted on asylum seekers in immigration detention facilities both within Australia and controlled by Australia.

“It suggests that some of these instances may amount to torture.”

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 - Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015 or

[accessed 18 March 2015]


Australia has a solid record of protecting civil and political rights, with robust institutions and a vibrant press and civil society that act as a check on government power. The government’s failure to respect international standards protecting asylum seekers and refugees, however, continues to take a heavy human toll and undermines Australia’s ability to call for stronger human rights protections abroad. In 2014, Australia introduced new overbroad counterterrorism measures that would infringe on freedoms of expression and movement. The government has also done too little to address indigenous rights and disability rights.

UN Committee against Torture’s Concluding Observations on Sweden, Ukraine, Venezuela, Australia, Burundi, USA, Croatia and Kazakhstan

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights OHCHR, Geneva, 24 November 2014

[accessed 7 December 2014]

The UN Committee against Torture will be holding a news conference to discuss the concluding observations of its 53rd session ... Among the issues discussed during the session:

AUSTRALIA: Violence against women; trafficking in persons; indigenous people in the criminal justice system; compliance with non-refoulement obligations under the Convention; mandatory immigration detention for unauthorised arrivals, including children; offshore processing of asylum seekers claims; work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

UN told of allegations of torture in Australia’s child welfare system

Bridie Jabour, Australia News, 27 October 2014

[accessed 26 November 2014]

Allegations of electric shocks and other forms of torture in orphanages and foster homes within Australia’s child welfare system have been detailed in a submission to the United Nations.

The submission alleges belts, straps, horse whips, canes, switches, wet towels, keys, fists, pieces of wood and even rosary beads were used as weapons against children. The most recent allegations are from the late 1990s.

“Another way of punishing children was to physically torture them. This differed to blatant corporal punishment and assault. Instead it was often designed to slowly cause intense pain or injury,” the submission says.

“For example, there have been some accounts of children being made to walk from post to post in the blazing hot sun with bare feet, not only to tire them out but to cause severe sunburn and blisters which would leave them in pain for days. As a result, many [of those affected] now suffer from skin cancer.

“In some orphanages and homes children were made to cut large sections of grass using basic stationery scissors, causing them to break down psychologically and physically.”

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture [PDF]

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. CAT/C/AUS/CO/3, 22 May 2008

[accessed 21 February 2013]

27. The Committee is concerned about allegations against law enforcement personnel in respect of acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and notes a lack of investigations and prosecutions.

28. The Committee is concerned about information indicating that Australian defence officials who were advising the Coalition Provisional Authority had knowledge of abuses committed in Abu Ghraib in 2003, yet did not call for prompt and impartial investigations.

29. The Committee, while noting the significant efforts undertaken by the State party to provide rehabilitation services to refugees who have suffered torture, regrets that certain victims, such as those on bridging visas, are not guaranteed equal access to these services.

30. The Committee is concerned that the State party lacks uniform legislation to exclude admission of evidence made as a result of torture. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned over reports indicating that confessional evidence obtained under ill-treatment in other countries has been used in criminal proceedings in Australia.


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015

Australia continued to violate the rights of Indigenous Peoples, stripping essential services from Aboriginal homelands. Refugee policy favoured deterrence, with mandatory, indefinite and remote detention for asylum-seekers arriving by boat.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ RIGHTS - The government continued to limit funding for housing and municipal services such as water and sanitation to Aboriginal peoples living on traditional homelands in the Northern Territory. As a result, people were effectively forced to abandon their traditional homelands to access essential services.

An expert panel on the constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians was due to provide recommendations to the Federal Parliament by December.

JUSTICE SYSTEM - Indigenous Peoples, while accounting for roughly 2.5 per cent of Australia’s population, comprised 26 per cent of the adult prison population. Half of all juveniles in detention were Aboriginal. A parliamentary committee report on Aboriginal youth and justice published in June showed a jump of 66 per cent in Aboriginal imprisonment rates between 2000 and 2009.

In September and October, security firm employees were fined for failing to prevent the death of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward, who collapsed from heatstroke in a prison van in 2008.


For current articles:: Search Amnesty International Website

[accessed 25 December 2018]


Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 16 January 2013]

[accessed 2 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law prohibits such practices; however, there were occasional reports that police and prison officials mistreated suspects in custody. Some indigenous groups charged that police harassment of indigenous people was pervasive and that racial discrimination by some police and prison custodians persisted.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, " Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Australia",, [accessed <date>]