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Australia’s ‘national security’ visa refusal violated Iranian’s right to family life - UN experts

Right to family life

30 April 2015

GENEVA (30 April 2015) – Australia violated the right to family life of an Iranian man who had to leave the country after 16 years because he was considered a threat to national security but was never told why, the UN Human Rights Committee has found.

Iranian national Mansour Leghaei was refused a permanent visa to stay in Australia due to what the authorities termed “compelling reasons of national security”. Even though his relatives were entitled to remain in Australia, Mr. Leghaei’s wife and Australian-born daughter, then aged 14, left for Iran with him in June 2010. His twin sons, Australian citizens and then aged 26, and his 20-year-old son stayed in Australia.

The Geneva-based Committee said that Australia’s visa refusal, which compelled the family to choose whether to accompany him or stay in the State party, constituted arbitrary interference in the Leghaeis’ right to family life. Mr. Leghaei “had lived more than 16 years legally in the territory of the State party, without ever being charged or warned by the domestic authorities as regards his personal conduct,” the Committee wrote in its findings.

Furthermore, Australia did not give Mr. Leghaei an adequate and objective justification for disrupting his long-settled family life. He was never formally given the reason why he was refused a visa, “except for the general explanation that he was a threat to national security, assessments which he did not even receive a summary of,” the Committee noted.

In addition, although his lawyers were given information about the evidence against him, they were prevented from sharing any details with him that would have allowed him to instruct them and refute the alleged threat he posed to national security.

In its conclusions, made public on 28 April 2015*, the Committee found that Australia’s actions constituted arbitrary interference with the family and hence violated Article 17 and Article 23 of the **International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In reaching its conclusion, the Committee recalled that the notion of arbitrariness includes a lack of predictability and due process of law.

In its submission to the committee, Australia had argued that the decision to expel Mr. Leghaei was reached in accordance with Australian laws that are fully in conformity with the Covenant and were interpreted in good faith by the competent domestic authorities.

The Human Rights Committee monitors implementation of the ICCPR by States parties. It considered this case under the First Optional Protocol to the Covenant which gives the Committee competence to examine individual complaints.

*The Committee’s views in full here:
**International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR):

Article 17
1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.
2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 23
1. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
2. The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized.
3. No marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
4. States Parties to the present Covenant shall take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. In the case of dissolution, provision shall be made for the necessary protection of any children.

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