Pacific News Minute: Australian Doctor Challenges Government to Prosecute Him for Speaking Out

Jan 27, 2016

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Australia's High Court is considering a challenge to the country's controversial off shore detention camps - all migrants who try to reach Australia by sea are sent to facilities  either on the Pacific Island nation of Nauru or to an atoll in Papua New Guinea. Now an Australian Doctor has challenged the government to prosecute him, for speaking out about conditions in the camps. Details from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

David Isaacs became a leading critic of offshore detention after three weeks as a pediatrician in the medical center of the camp in Nauru. On his return to his children's clinic in the suburbs of Sydney, he told ABC radio that people in the camp were treated like animals. "I saw a six year old child who tried to hang herself with a fence tie," he said. "I saw a fifteen year old brave lad who'd sewn his lips up, and his parents were cross with him for doing it, and he was cross with them, because when he collapsed, they let the medical staff cut the ties on his lips."

But that was last June, just before a law called the Border Force Act took effect. Now any contractor at the detention camps, teachers, doctors, nurses, security personnel, face up to two years in prison if they speak out.

This week, Professor Isaacs published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics, and wrote a letter to Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorter which reads, in part:

"Long term immigration detention causes major mental health problems, is illegal under international law and arguably fits the recognized definition of torture. The conditions we witnessed typified those in institutions such as asylums, prisons and concentration camps. There was constant bullying and humiliation."

The professor demands that the government either prosecute him under the Border Force act, or repeal it.