There were ongoing concerns about independence of the judiciary and restrictions on freedom of expression. Asylum-seekers continued to be housed at the Australian-run immigration processing centre on Nauru amid reports of sexual and other physical abuse, including of children.
Freedom of expression
In April the government blocked access to Facebook for several weeks, claiming it needed to stop the sexual exploitation of children. On 12 May, new criminal laws imposed seven-year prison sentences for publishing statements which coerced, intimidated or caused emotional distress. These laws failed to comply with international human rights law and standards on the right to freedom of expression and imposed excessive penalties.
Court cases continued against five opposition MPs who were suspended from Parliament in 2014 after being accused of criticizing the government in international media. All five had their passports cancelled. In June three of the MPs were also detained, two without bail for one month, after participating in protests criticizing the government.
Concerns remained about the independence of the judiciary and unreasonable delays after judicial officers were effectively dismissed in early 2014, jeopardizing the right to a fair trial.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
By 30 November, 543 people, including 70 children, remained in the Australian-run centre on Nauru. Approximately 621 refugees were living on temporary visas in the community. The reopening of Australia’s immigration processing centre on Nauru in 2012 led to numerous human rights abuses. In March, an independent report released by the Australian government made recommendations to address ongoing concerns about the safety of women and children in the centre (see Australia entry). The Nauru government stated it was deeply concerned by the findings and would make all resources available to help Australia implement the changes. However, in August a report by the Australian Senate into the abuse allegations stated that the current conditions and circumstances were not adequate, appropriate or safe. Despite key recommendations, Nauru had yet to implement a child protection framework.
In October the Nauru government announced that the centre would be an “open” facility, with those housed there free to come and go. It also announced that the remaining 600 asylum claims would be processed “within a week”. By the end of December processing had still not been completed.
Ongoing reports of violence against refugees in the community raised concerns that Nauru remained ill-equipped to provide the necessary safeguards to protect asylum-seekers and to meet the needs of refugees who were settled.
A ban on foreign journalists visiting the island was made explicit in a statement from the Nauru government in October.
In May, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture inspected Nauru’s police station and prison, as well as the Immigration Detention Centre. The government committed to establishing a National Preventive Mechanism to monitor places of detention at the earliest opportunity.
In November, Nauru’s human rights record was assessed for the second time under the UN UPR. The government agreed to ensure judicial independence, introduce specific laws against family violence, and to improve measures to safeguard the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers.
2016 Nauru Report