The complaint, submitted to both the UK and Australian NCPs, alleges that UK security contractor G4S failed to meet international standards and committed serious human rights violations in relation to the treatment of asylum seekers detained at an off-shore processing centre in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
The Australian Government established the centre in 2001 as an offshore processing centre. By agreement with PNG, asylum seekers arriving in Australia are forcibly transferred to Manus Island where they are mandatorily detained pending consideration of their refugee status. G4S was contracted by the Australian government to oversee management and security at the Manus Island Centre between February 2013 and March 2014.
Over this period, the Centre was repeatedly criticised by human rights organisations including the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for breaching basic minimum standards of care. The most serious incident occurred on 16-17 February 2014 when outbreaks of violence at the facility resulted in the death of an Iranian asylum seeker and injuries to up to 69 others. The outbreak of violence (in which G4S personnel were directly involved) is the subject of an on-going inquiry by the Australian Senate. Prior to the February violence, a number of other incidents had already raised concerns about detainee safety, such as physical violence, threats or aggression towards detainees by G4S personnel and sexual assaults.
The complainants propose the following recommendations to bring G4Ss policies and procedures in line with the OECD Guidelines: commitments with respect to a human rights framework for any future contracts it may enter into, commitments with respect to the payment of financial compensation to the detainees injured by G4S guards and to the family of the Iranian asylum seeker, disclosure of information on the outcomes of any internal investigations and disciplinary actions taken against staff involved in the violence, and disclosure of key documents which the company has not provided to the Senate Inquiry.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Chapter II
- Chapter II Paragraph A10
- Chapter II Paragraph A11
- Chapter II Paragraph A12
- Chapter II Paragraph A2
- Chapter II Paragraph A8
- Chapter IV
- Chapter IV Paragraph 2
- Chapter IV Paragraph 3
- Chapter IV Paragraph 5
- Chapter IV Paragraph 6
In June 2015, the Australian NCP rejected the complaint citing three grounds. First of all, the NCP felt that aspects of the complaint could be interpreted as commentary on government policy. The NCP argued that G4S as service provider is not accountable for government policy and that other mechanisms exist for review and scrutiny of policy. Furthermore, the NCP did not consider it necessary to have a review of the conduct of G4S staff, as it would be unlikely to add further value to already existing reviews. Finally, the NCP claimed there were various legal proceedings in relation to incidents at the MRPC in which the NCP did not want to intervene.
The complainants did not feel that any of these three reasons provided valid grounds for rejecting the complaint, and they believe that the NCP violated the Procedural Guidance of the OECD Guidelines by rejecting the case based on criteria not stipulated in the Procedural Guidance.
On 2 July 2015, the complainants appealed the ANCP’s final assessment of the case. The ANCP reviewed the decision and decided to uphold its original decision. They provided their 2016 ANCP Response to the appeal as an appendix to its 27 October 2017 Appeal Statement. The appeal statement by the ANCP summarizes the case and the appeal process and then formally concludes the process with this statement “The ANCP acknowledges that at the time it was conducted, this appeal was not handled in line with published procedural guidance. The treasury is committed to improving the performance of the ANCP function. The 2017 independent review of the ANCP has been an important mechanism to assess the effectiveness of the ANCP’s structure and procedures, and will provide a further basis for considering improvements going forward.”
On 27 November, 2017, OECD Watch submits a substantiated submission to the OECD’s Investment Committee regarding the ANCP’s handling of this case.