Australia: prioritizing rights at home, abroad

(Sydney) – New Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese should adopt an ambitious foreign policy agenda centered on human rights and launch urgent domestic rights reforms, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the Prime Minister. Albanese and Foreign Secretary Penny Wong.

“Prime Minister Albanese has an opportunity to reshape Australia’s regional reputation as a human rights leader,” said Sophie McNeill, Australia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “We urge the Albanian government to take action to hold countries violating human rights to account, while addressing long-standing national human rights issues at home.

The Albanian government should immediately impose targeted sanctions against senior Myanmar military officials responsible for human rights abuses following the February 2021 coup, as well as businesses and other entities linked to the military. Australia should urge Southeast Asian governments to develop a clear, time-bound approach to pushing Myanmar’s junta to reform, including increasing restrictions on its foreign exchange earnings and arms purchases .

The Australian government should also immediately impose targeted sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, as well as call on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to immediately release her report on Xinjiang. The Albanian government should consider targeted sanctions against foreign companies, officials and other entities known to directly profit from forced labor and other human rights abuses.

In the face of China’s growing influence, the Albanian government should seek to strengthen the rule of law, transparency and accountability in the Asia-Pacific region, and reinvest in development assistance that strengthens civil society, Human Rights Watch said. Governments from Vietnam to India are increasingly cracking down on the work of human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers, and the Albanian government should strongly promote the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of media and freedom of association throughout the region.

Concrete actions are needed to address specific situations of abuse in a number of countries, including Afghanistan, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Israel and Palestine. The Albanian government should show increased leadership at the UN Human Rights Council, especially on Lebanon and China.

Domestically, the Albanian government should prioritize reforms to address long-standing human rights issues, such as the treatment of asylum seekers, the overrepresentation of First Nations people in Australia’s criminal justice system and continued government support for new fossil fuel projects.

The Albanian government should take urgent steps to effectively regulate corporate greenhouse gas emissions, stop subsidizing fossil fuels, and end support for new oil, gas, and coal projects, Human Rights Watch said.

The Albanian government should end the indefinite and arbitrary detention of refugees and asylum seekers, and end a general policy of “turning back boats”, which is neither humane nor in accordance with international law. Australia should also end overseas treatment and transfer all those remaining in Papua New Guinea and Nauru to Australia or to safe and appropriate third countries.

“During the campaign and in opposition, Albanese has embarked on ambitious human rights reforms which should now be swiftly implemented,” McNeill said. “Australia’s right mix of pressure and engagement on human rights issues could make a significant difference in promoting respect for human rights in the Asia-Pacific region. We look forward to working with the new government to see the measures adopted as soon as possible. »

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