Pandemic lifts Qld human rights complaints

Fraser BartonAAP
Queensland's human rights watchdog saw a rise in complaints during the pandemic period.
Camera IconQueensland's human rights watchdog saw a rise in complaints during the pandemic period. Credit: AAP

An woman in her twenties who was placed into isolation and claims she was deprived of medical treatment, water and fresh air is among many who complained to Queensland's Human Rights Commission in 2020/21.

While the commission did not make findings on her treatment, its new report recommends prisoners isolated in response to the pandemic should not be for more than 14 days.

Further, people should have certain minimum entitlements to medical treatment and mental health services without the caveat of 'to the greatest extent possible', the commission said.

Eighty per cent of the 369 complaints made last financial year were related to COVID-19, mainly on issues with hotel quarantine and border restrictions.

The most frequently identified complaint was the right to recognition and equality before the law, found in over half of those made to the commission.

The second most frequent was on the right to humane treatment when deprived of liberty, and the third was on freedom of movement or border closures.

Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population made 10.5 per cent of total complaints. Indigenous people make up four per cent of the state's population.

The report noted that community attitudes reflected support for the Queensland government acting to protect human rights, even when rushing emergency pandemic legislation through parliament.

The commission remains concerned about changes to youth justice laws which have led to many more young people being detained.

"The pressure on detention centre capacity means there is significant risk of children (as young as 10) being held for unacceptably prolonged periods in police watch houses," the report said.

"The government did not formally respond to the Committee's concerns, however the Act is subject to an evaluation."

Concerns were also raised about the presumption against bail.

"Reversing the onus for bail means that more children will be likely to be detained regardless of whether they present an unacceptable risk to the community, because the provisions burden the accused child with the task of 'showing cause' as to why they should not be detained on bail," the report said.

But the committee was satisfied that the provisions were reasonable and justified in the circumstances.

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