The International Human Rights Dimensions of Preventive Detention of High Risk Sex Offenders in Australia: What the UN Human Rights Committee Decided
Patrick Keyzer, Ph.D.
Bond University, Australia
Monday, September 27th
Australia is a signatory to the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which allows Australian citizens to file communications with the United Nations Human Rights Committee where the citizen believes that Australia or one of its States has breached the Covenant. However it has a lengthy track record of experiments in preventive detention that have attracted the criticism of international agencies. This talk is about two prisoners, Robert Fardon and Ken Tillman, who were re-imprisoned after the conclusion of their prison sentences for serious sex offences under laws presently operating in four Australian States that authorise State Supreme Courts to order that a person should be imprisoned for ‘care, control or treatment’ if they are adjudged to be a high risk to the community if released. Unlike US civil commitment systems for the preventive detention of sexually violent predators, the Australian State laws use prison as the venue for preventive detention. The UN Human Rights Committee decided that these regimes violate Covenant guarantees against arbitrary detention, guaranteeing due process and prohibiting retrospective punishment. This talk chronicles the applications, the decisions and the response of Australian governments to the challenge of managing serious sex offenders in the community, offering comparisons with US civil commitment systems in their respective constitutional contexts.