Media Release from the National Justice Project
Independent Legal Observers Urgently Required on Manus
Experts say that Border Force Minister Dutton should allow legal observers on Manus immediately.
George Newhouse of the National Justice Project says the Detention Centre on Manus is a powder-keg, pending the announcement of the High Court’s decision (regarding the constitutionality of asylum seeker removal to Papua New Guinea).
Human rights lawyer George Newhouse of the National Justice Project says that each detainee on Manus is about one false move or 30 seconds away away from a situation that could irreparably harm their future.
(In the case of Chegeni, one 30 second incident was enough to damage his “character assessment” and his case forever. The slant put on the reporting of such events is ultimately life or death).
“The long-term prisoners on Manus are by and large good people. However, they are also depressed after 3 years of indefinite offshore detention, under massive pressure and patrolled by an increasing number of armed guards. The atmosphere is allegedly intimidating and hostile.
Their cases might be adversely harmed by any institutional bias or misreporting,” said Newhouse, who has represented some high profile immigration detainees.
The Chegeni case proves that the institutional culture of Border Force or Immigration is antipathetic if not antagonistic to their interests. They are vulnerable and there is no-one there to independently witness the conduct of all parties.
Border Force wants to force the majority of these men to become residents of PNG. The men have collectively held out against this pressure. Possible tension arising from the High Court case announcement has become a pretext for moving in many extra security personnel.
“In NSW we have the Prison Visitor system to monitor events and conditions within high pressure corrective environments”, said Mr Newhouse.
“Journalists are banned. Doctors are gagged”.
“The men of Manus deserve independent legal observers to be among them for their own safety and to preserve the integrity of reports,” Newhouse added.
“We appear to have learned nothing since the death of architect Reza Berati on Manus in February 2014”.