To: Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia
9 December 2011
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing on behalf of Scottish-based human rights group Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) to draw your attention to an international statement on prisoner isolation supported by SACC and a range of other organisations and individuals.
A copy of the statement and the names of its supporters is included with this letter and is available online at www.stopisolation.org
Believing prisoner isolation to be one of the major issues still to be adequately addressed in international human rights practice, we have chosen the eve of International Human Rights Day 2011 to raise this matter with the governments of 6 key countries – The USA, the UK, France, Germany, Australia and Turkey.
Supporters of the statement include intellectuals of international standing, legal practitioners, human rights experts, experts on penal policy, current and former prisoners and a small cross-section of ordinary people from around the world. Their collective knowledge of prisoner isolation is formidable, and it is for this reason that I commend the statement to your attention and ask you to respond by letting me know the Australian Government’s views and intentions on this matter.
I also draw your attention to the proposal by the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, presented to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the UN General Assembly on 18 October 2011, for a worldwide ban on the practice of prolonged solitary confinement.
In the light of this proposal, and out of respect for all the supporters of the StopIsolation statement, I hope you will:
- Let me know your views on the general principles set out in paragraphs 1 to 8 of the statement;
- Let me know whether you agree with paragraph 9 of the statement ( “enforced long-term isolation in all circumstances breaches Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states ‘no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ …”);
- Let me know whether the Government will seek to introduce “legislation that prohibits long-term prisoner isolation, and prohibits the transfer of prisoners to countries where they would be at risk of such treatment,” as proposed in paragraph 10 of the statement;
- Let me know of any other steps the Australian Government is taking or intends to take in order to eliminate or reduce the incidence of long-term prisoner isolation in Australia and around the world.
Response of the Australian Government
See the Statement from Australian Government on prisoner isolation provided by the Attorney-General’s Department.