Refugees' claim against state stays

A claim against the state of alleged breach of human rights by 731 asylum seekers and refugees in Manus will be progressing to trial.

A three-man Supreme Court bench refused and dismissed an application by the state, which asked the court to dismiss the claim, alleging it was filed outside the required six month period.

On November 4, 2016, the 731 applicants gave the state notice of their intention to make a claim against it, pursuant to section 5 of the Claims By and Against the State Act 1996.

In the claim, they are seeking compensation and damages under section 58 of the Constitution over their continuous detention at the (now decommissioned) Manus Regional Processing Centre after the Supreme Court’s ruling of 26 April 2016, which held that their detention was unconstitutional and unlawful.

Following this ruling, they were to be released however, they were not given access out of the centre until 12 May 2016.

The state alleged that section 5 notice was served late and outside the six month period. It then filed an application on December 2, 2016, seeking dismissal of the claims proceeding.

The Supreme Court had to determine the timeframe in which the applicants were allowed to move freely outside but subject to rules of the Lombrum Naval Base and the date the claim notice was served on the state.

In calculating the timeframe from the date the gates were open on 12 May 2016, the Supreme Court said that the six month period would have expired on 12 November 2016 and the claims notice was served on the state within time.

The court dismissed the application by the state, allowing the asylum seekers and refugees’ claim to continue to trial.

The matter will return to court next year for directions where a trial date will be set.

Meanwhile, an appeal filed by Kurdish-Iranian journalist, Behrouz Boochani, against the refusal of a single-judge sitting in the Supreme Court to grant orders for the return of essential services and restrain their forceful removal from the decommissioned centre has been withdrawn from court because events have overturned.

Boochani and others at the decommissioned site have been moved to alternate facilities in Manus.

Sally Pokiton