Australia has breached an international treaty on human rights by holding a former US military pilot in degrading conditions next to convicted violent offenders, his lawyers claim in a complaint to the United Nations.
The UN Human Rights Committee is being urged to investigate the treatment of Daniel Duggan in a NSW prison after he was arrested by the Australian Federal Police in October at the request of American authorities who accuse him of helping to train Chinese military pilots to fly fighter jets.
The complaint comes after Australia’s domestic spy chief, Mike Burgess, this week said his agency had been tracking a “small but concerning number” of military insiders willing to “put cash before country”.
Duggan, a 54-year-old Australian citizen who lives on a farm outside Orange in NSW with his wife and six children, denies the allegations and claims the United States is trying to make a political example of him.
In a submission sent to the UN body on February 15, Duggan’s lawyers claim his treatment in prison – where he is confined in a two-by-four-metre cell – constitutes four breaches of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
These include the failure to protect him from “inhumane or degrading” treatment, failure to segregate him from convicted prisoners, the violation of his right to adequate facilities to prepare his legal defence and a denial of his right to confidential communication.
The submission also states that a clinical psychologist who interviewed and assessed Duggan in Silverwater prison in Sydney had diagnosed him with severe adjustment disorder, anxiety and depression.
“The psychologist described Mr Duggan’s conditions as ‘extreme’ and ‘inhumane’. He advised that Mr Duggan was at risk of a major depressive disorder,” the submission states.
The submission raises issue with the fact that Duggan, who served in the US Marine Corps between 1989 and 2002 before moving to Australia, was classed as an “extreme high risk” prisoner by the commissioner of NSW Corrective Services on October 31, 10 days after his arrest.
The submission resulted in his arms and legs being shackled to his waist when he was moved by guards within the prison.
His lawyer Dennis Miralis has previously said he was pursuing whether there had been “any foreign interference in that designation, in a way that is not in accordance with the law”, which suggests that he suspects the request came from the US.
According to the submission, the designation was revoked by the commissioner on December 16 following a recommendation from the High Security Inmate Management Committee of the Serious Offenders Review Council.
“Despite the formal revocation of the EHRR designation, Mr Duggan’s detention conditions as outlined below, remain the same. He also remains held with convicted prisoners,” the submission states, before adding that Duggan has had restricted access to communication with his family and lawyers.
The submission also states that Duggan suffers from a “benign prostatic hyperplasia”, but was delayed in seeing a doctor until the first week of February and his numerous requests to a nurse for multivitamins have not been met.
A spokesperson for NSW Corrective Services said all inmates were assigned an initial classification upon entering prison that could then be reviewed.
“This ensures inmates are housed and moved appropriately for their own safety and security as well as the security of fellow inmates, CSNSW staff and the wider community,” the spokesperson said.
“Offenders received into custody who are charged or convicted of an offence related to national security under Commonwealth or NSW law are managed under a regime developed for Extreme High Risk Restricted (EHHR) offenders.”
The director-general of ASIO, Mike Burgess, said on Tuesday that third-party companies had offered Australians hundreds of thousands of dollars to help authoritarian regimes improve their combat skills.
“These individuals are lackeys, more ‘top tools’ than ‘top guns’,” Burgess said in his annual threat assessment.
“Selling our warfighting skills is no different to selling our secrets – especially when the training and tactics are being transferred to countries that will use them to close capability gaps, and could use them against us or our allies at some time in the future.”
Duggan’s wife, Saffrine, said she was shocked when she saw him in prison recently because he was a “shadow of himself”.
“He’s extremely gaunt and lost a lot of weight. His face is shallow and hollowed, like he’s in a concentration camp,” she said.
She said her husband had a jumpsuit with black leather straps on his neck tightly fixed around his neck, and she has only been able to see him twice in the whole time he has been in prison.
The former US Marine pilot is fighting the US’s extradition request after being indicted on charges including conspiracy to unlawfully export defence services to China, conspiracy to launder money and violating the arms export control act.
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