Statement by Legal Scholars Regarding the Situation Concerning Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers

7 July 2014

As scholars of international law, human rights law, and refugee law we are profoundly concerned by reports that asylum seekers have been subjected to rapid and inadequate screening interviews at sea and returned to Sri Lanka.

This raises a real risk of refoulement, in breach of Australia's obligations under international refugee and human rights law, including the 1951 Refugees Convention, 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Such summary procedures do not comply with minimum standards on refugee status determination under international law. Holding asylum seekers on boats in this manner also amounts to incommunicado detention without judicial scrutiny.

We urgently call on the Australian government to make public its legal justification for this operation.

Australia's reported conduct under Operation Sovereign Borders clearly violates international law, is inconsistent with Australia's position as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and adherence to the United Nations Charter, and Australia's frequent calls for East and Southeast Asian countries to respect international law in the resolution of territorial and maritime disputes.

Media Contacts:
Professor Jane McAdam (02) 9385 2210
Professor Donald Rothwell 0414 546 830

SIGNED BY THE FOLLOWING 53 LEGAL SCHOLARS FROM 17 AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITIES:

Carolyn Adams, Macquarie Law School, Macquarie University Professor Donald K. Anton, ANU College of Law, Australian National University Professor Peter Bailey, ANU College of Law, Australian National University
Dr Laurie Berg, Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney Associate Professor Gideon Boas, Faculty of Law, Monash University Kevin Boreham, Lecturer, ANU College of Law, Australian National University
Dr Anthony E Cassimatis, Associate Professor (Reader), TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland Melissa Castan, Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University Professor Hilary Charlesworth, Director, Centre for International Governance and Justice, Australian National University
Dr Joyce Chia, Senior Research Associate, Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, Faculty of Law, The University of New South Wales Professor Mary Crock, Professor of Public Law, Faculty of Law, The University of Sydney
Azadeh Dastyari, Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Monash University.
Dr Sara Davies, ARC Future Fellow and QUT Vice Chancellor Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Health Law Research, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology
Julie Debeljak, Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University
Marianne Dickie, Director of Migration Law Program ANU College of Law, Australian National University
Associate Professor Tina Dolgopol, School of Law, Flinders University
Professor Andrea Durbach, Director, Australian Human Rights Centre, Faculty of Law, The University of New South Wales
Dr Patrick Emerton, Senior Lecturer and Associate of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Faculty of Law, Monash University
Associate Professor Michelle Foster, Director Research Programme in International Refugee Law, Institute for International Law and the Humanities, Melbourne Law School
Associate Professor Sam Garkawe, School of Law and Justice, Southern Cross University
Andrew Garwood-Gowers, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology
Dr Sarah Heathcote, ANU College of Law, Australian National University
Anja Hilkemeijer, Lecturer, Law School, University of Tasmania
Professor Fleur Johns, Faculty of Law, The University of New South Wales
Professor Sarah Joseph, Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University
Dr Daniel Joyce, Faculty of Law, The University of New South Wales
Associate Professor Mary Anne Kenny, Director Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University
Professor David Kinley, Chair in Human Rights Law, Sydney Law School, The University of Sydney
Professor Susan Kneebone, Faculty of Law and Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University
Professor Wendy Lacey, Dean and Head of School, School of Law, University of South Australia
Dr Rebecca LaForgia, Senior Lecturer, Adelaide University Law School
Dr Peter Lawrence, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania
Associate Professor David Letts, ANU College of Law, Australian National University
Professor Penelope Mathew, Griffith Law School
Professor Jane McAdam, Director of the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, Faculty of Law, The University of New South Wales
Assoc Prof Adam McBeth, Deputy Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Faculty of Law, Monash University
Associate Professor Christopher Michaelsen, Director of Human Rights and Social Justice Programs, Faculty of Law, The University of New South Wales
Wayne Morgan, ANU College of Law, Australian National University
Dr Hitoshi Nasu, ANU College of Law, Australian National University
Associate Professor Bronwyn Naylor, Faculty of Law, Monash University
Kate Ogg, ANU College of Law, Australian National University
Dr Kate Purcell, Postdoctoral Fellow and Member of the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, Faculty of Law, The University of New South Wales
Professor Peter Radan, Macquarie Law School, Macquarie University
Professor Donald R. Rothwell, Professor of International Law, ANU College of Law, Australian National University
Professor Kim Rubenstein, Director - Centre for International and Public Law, ANU College of Law, Australian National University
Dr Imogen Saunders, ANU College of Law, Australian National University
Professor Ben Saul, Professor of International Law, Sydney Law School, The University of Sydney
Dr Gabrielle Simm, Lecturer, Macquarie Law School and Visiting Fellow, UNSW Law, The University of New South Wales
Associate Professor Tim Stephens, Associate Dean (PG Coursework), Faculty of Law, The University of Sydney
Associate Professor Iain Stewart, Macquarie Law School, Macquarie University
Associate Professor Savitri Taylor, Law School, La Trobe University
Dilan Thampapillai, ANU College of Law, Australian National University
Matthew Zagor, ANU College of Law, Australian National University