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UN committee: Australia violated indigenous people’s rights

Torres Strait Islanders worried about climate change are set to lodge a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee against the Australian government. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Torres Strait Islanders worried about climate change are set to lodge a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee against the Australian government. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

GENEVA, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) — The government of Australia has failed to adequately protect indigenous Torres Islanders against adverse impacts of climate change and thus violated their rights to enjoy their culture and be free from arbitrary interferences with their private life, family, and home, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee said on Friday.

The committee issued its decision after examining a joint complaint filed by eight Australian nationals and six of their children, claiming that their rights had been violated as Australia failed to adapt to climate change by, inter alia, upgrading seawalls on the islands and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The eight Australian nationals and six of their children are all indigenous inhabitants of Boigu, Poruma, Warraber, and Masig, four small, low-lying islands in Australia’s Torres Strait region.

In their complaint brought to the committee, the islanders claimed that changes in weather patterns had direct harmful consequences on their livelihood, their culture, and traditional way of life.

“This decision marks a significant development as the committee has created a pathway for individuals to assert claims where national systems have failed to take appropriate measures to protect those most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change on the enjoyment of their human rights,” committee member Helene Tigroudja said.

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