C. v. Australia

U.N. H.R. Comm., U.N. Doc. CCPR/76/D/900/1999 (Nov. 13, 2002).
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Petitioner claimed a breach of Article 7 (freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment) and Article 9, particularly Article 9(1) (right to liberty and security of person) and Article 9(4) (a person deprived of liberty’s right to fair trial) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) when he was detained for the second time in Australia by the authorities while suffering from a mental illness, which he claimed was induced by his initial detention in Australia and was exacerbated be the second one.

C., an Assyrian Christian from Iran, had been detained after illegal entry into Australia in 1992 and he immediately applied for asylum. He was detained for over two years pending the outcome of his application for asylum during which period his mental health deteriorated and he was prescribed tranquilizers for his illness. He was subsequently released to his family on health grounds. He was eventually granted refugee status in 1995 and subsequently legal residency status a month later. Subsequently he broke into the house of a friend and a relative, damaged property and made death threats. He was found guilty of aggravated burglary and threats to kill and given a jail sentence. The consensus opinion following psychological assessment in late 1996 was that his offenses were caused by his psychiatric condition and that the risk of future acts would be decreased with ongoing treatment. The Immigration Minister ordered C.’s deportation as a non-citizen who had committed a serious crime. Appeal against that decision failed. He was subsequently placed in detention pending deportation once he was granted parole where he filed a petition to the Human Rights Committee alleging amongst other things that his initial detention period breached Article 7 of ICCPR as his prolonged detention resulted in his mental illness and that his second detention also breached Article 7 as it was likely to exacerbate his mental illness.

Petition sought remedy under Article 2 (right to remedy) of the ICCPR .

The Human Rights Committee held that C.'s first detention for over a period of two years without a meaningful opportunity for judicial review was arbitrary and was in breach of Article 7 (freedom from torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) of the ICCPR as it had failed to take steps to ameliorate his mental condition. It also held that Australia had failed to demonstrate that given C.'s particular circumstances, less invasive means were not available to enforce its immigration policies and that his detention constituted a violation of Article 9 (1) (right to liberty and security)and Article 9 (4) (detainees' right to a timely trial).

"As to the author's allegations that his first period of detention amounted to a breach of article 7, the Committee notes that the psychiatric evidence emerging from examinations of the author over an extended period, which was accepted by the State party's courts and tribunals, was essentially unanimous that the author's psychiatric illness developed as a result of the protracted period of immigration detention. The Committee notes that the State party was aware, at least from August 1992 when he was prescribed tranquillizers, of psychiatric difficulties the author faced. Indeed, by August 1993, it was evident that there was a conflict between the author's continued detention and his sanity. Despite increasingly serious assessments of the author's conditions in February and June 1994 (and a suicide attempt), it was only in August 1994 that the Minister exercised his exceptional power to release him from immigration detention on medical grounds (while legally he remained in detention). As subsequent events showed, by that point the author's illness had reached such a level of severity that irreversible consequences were to follow."