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06/17/2004: Nauru Nauru

All-clear for Nauru detention
from The Age (Australia)

Nauru's Supreme Court has found the country's detention of asylum seekers is not illegal or punitive and may in fact be humanitarian.

Chief Justice Barry Connell made the finding yesterday in dismissing a challenge to the legality of Nauru detaining asylum seekers. Chief Justice Connell found that asylum seekers' "acquiescence" in their detention meant it was not punitive, and "they could if they wished, leave Nauru".

"A person is not being punished if, after entering Australia without permission, he or she chooses to be detained in custody pending the determination of an application for entry rather than to leave the country," he said.

He found Nauru's principal immigration officer was empowered on humanitarian and other grounds to issue special visas allowing asylum seekers to enter Nauru. The consent of the person receiving the visa was not required.

The case, which sought the immediate release of asylum seekers, was brought by Melbourne lawyers Eric Vadarlis, Sam Hay and Julian Burnside, QC, on behalf of two Afghans held on Nauru for three years.

Mr Vadarlis said an appeal would be lodged.

I know, dear Athenaeum readers that there has been a dearth of Nauru news lately, but believe me, there seems to be a lot of stuff brewing over there right now, and this will be the first of several important updates. This just seemed to be the most important (and strangest) of the news items.