PIAC responds to scathing UN subcommittee report on Australian detention

  • The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (‘SPT’) visited Australia in October 2022 to investigate Australia’s compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
  • The SPT visited 6 prisons, 3 youth detention centres, 5 police stations, 1 hospital and 6 immigration detention centres (including alternative places of detention).
  • The visit was terminated early when the SPT inspectors were denied access to some places of detention.
  • The SPT has now released a report on the visit, including recommendations and observations.
  • The report and the Australian Government’s response to the report are available on the Committee’s website.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) represents clients who have been detained in Australian prisons, youth detention centres, police stations and immigration detention centres. We welcome the UN SPT’s oversight of Australia’s detention regime and its role in protecting the fundamental human rights of detained people.


Quotes can be attributed to PIAC Principal Solicitor Jonathan Hall Spence. Jonathan is also available for interview.

‘Australia presents itself as a good global citizen. But this report shows we are failing to meet basic obligations to protect the human rights of people in prisons, youth detention and immigration detention.’

‘The report notes a troubling trend of ‘oversecuritization’, with authorities using force, restraint and surveillance unnecessarily, resulting in trauma and dehumanisation of detainees.’

‘UN inspectors observed the ‘unnecessary and arbitrary’ routine use of restraints like handcuffs, including on children, which was largely unregulated and insufficiently documented. This corresponds with what we know from our clients and hear other legal experts.’

‘The Government’s official line is that restraints are used as a last resort – but the evidence shows restraints are used excessively, without appropriate assessment of risk or regard to the well-being of people in detention.’

‘We recently settled a case against the Commonwealth for our client Yasir*, who was forced to wear handcuffs to access offsite medical treatment while in immigration detention – despite a history of trauma and severe mental illness which were exacerbated each time the handcuffs were put on or threatened. Yasir is pleased with the outcome but hopes other detainees can be spared the trauma he experienced while in detention.’

‘Investigators found insufficient access to medical care, particularly for people with serious mental health issues, and heard concerning reports about the use of handcuffs on patients in hospital beds. These findings are consistent with PIAC’s concerns about conditions within immigration detention and reinforce our position that minimum health care standards for people in detention must be guaranteed by law.’

‘We continue to see breaches of human rights in detention settings across Australia – including for young people, people with disability, asylum seekers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Brutal and unrelenting systems lead to physical and psychological injuries, and even deaths, for detainees. This report emphasises once again that we must do more to improve conditions in detention and implement more effective monitoring and oversight.’

Media contacts:
PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Danielle Buhagiar: 0478 739 280

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