Federal politics: full coverageMichael Gordon: Stop transfers until we have answersTony Wright: Australia put these people at riskDesperate calls for help as violence erupted on Manus
Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs has urged the Abbott government to appoint a respected former judge or public servant to investigate the conditions in Australia’s offshore detention centres.
Her comments come as Iran’s foreign ministry reportedly called in Australia’s ambassador to protest the death the Iranian asylum seeker.
According to a report from the country’s official news agency, IRNA, the ministry’s consular director, Hosein Mirfakhar, expressed Iran’s ”protest and discontent” to Australia’s ambassador to Iran Paul Foley.
The Australian and Papua New Guinea governments have announced inquiries after violent clashes between security forces and asylum seekers on Manus Island left one Iranian asylum seeker dead and 77 injured.
On Tuesday night, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison conceded it was unclear whether the attacks happened inside or outside the detention centre. ”I can’t give you an absolute position on that as there are some conflicting reports at the moment and once those are resolved and the reasons for those conflicts then I’d be in a position to report on it,” he said at a news conference in Canberra.
Mr Morrison said an independent review would investigate the violence. The secretary of his department, Martin Bowles, would “initiate a full review into this incident in the same way the former government commissioned previous reviews into incidents”.
But Professor Triggs said she did not believe these inquiries would be sufficiently objective.
”I think we’ve reached a stage now with the violence – both of course a year ago in Nauru and now again on Manus – that it really does call for a more objective inquiry into what is happening at these detention centres and what the conditions are that lead to the levels of very high anxiety and in some cases violence,” she told ABC radio on Wednesday morning.
Professor Triggs said it would be appropriate for a retired judge or civil servant to handle the inquiry. She also called on the government to appoint an independent panel to monitor conditions inside Australia’s detention network.
”I think that a regular monitoring body of respected professionals in the area would carry considerable credibility and would keep us all better informed,” she said.
Professor Triggs said she believed the “tipping point” for the latest violence was a lack of clarity about when asylum seekers would be processed.
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said it was a “bit rich” for the Iranian government to criticise Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.
But Ms Plibersek said: ”I think the reports [of violence on Manus Island] are very disturbing indeed and I think it’s important that there be a full investigation and that it is made public.”
Mr Morrison said that Tuesday evening passed without incident at the Manus Island centre and that conditions remained calm.
An asylum seeker involved in the incident on Tuesday night has been flown to Brisbane to receive treatment for a fractured skull.
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