Monday, 22 February 2021
Statements by Members
Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations
I want to commend Australia for signing on last week to the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations. What is this? This is the use by states of arbitrary arrest and detention of foreign nationals to compel action or to exercise leverage over a foreign government—what is known in shorthand as 'hostage diplomacy'.
We've seen a lot of this in recent years, unfortunately, and it seems to be a growing trend. But it's contrary to international law—the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly article 9, and also the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It has a chilling effect on foreign nationals who are living and working abroad, including the roughly one million Australians who are living and working overseas in normal times. But, more importantly, it's antithetical to our values and contrary to how civilised states are operating, and it's going to lead to a race to the bottom. Iran, unfortunately, is one of the most accomplished practitioners of this, and Australia has had firsthand experience with this with the arrest and detention of Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who we were able to release only recently. But even in Myanmar today we have concerns over an Australian academic, Sean Turnell, whom members in the House here would be aware of.
Fifty-five countries signed on to this declaration and I'm pleased that Australia was amongst them. The declaration calls on states to respect their obligations, including for things like consular access, and to put an end to harsh conditions in detention, denial of access to legal counsel and to torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. I urge other states to study this declaration and to sign on.