Geneva (AP) – According to a decision by the United Nations, Australia has not adequately protected islanders in the Pacific from the effects of climate change for too long. Because of the omissions, the state is obliged to compensate residents of the Australian Torres Strait Islands, according to the decision of the UN Human Rights Committee on Friday in Geneva.
Eight indigenous islanders had contacted the body that monitors compliance with internationally agreed civil and political rights. They argued in their lawsuit that life and culture on the islands in the Torres Strait between northern Australia and Papua New Guinea are under threat because of rising water levels and more frequent flooding.
The Human Rights Commission took into account that a government program to build seawalls on the islands has been running since 2019. However, the measure was taken too late, it said. The fruit trees, gardens and burial sites important to the residents are already being destroyed. Minority rights and the rights to housing, private life and family have been violated. According to the UN Treaty on Civil and Political Rights, Australia must now “pay the plaintiffs appropriate compensation for the damage suffered,” the decision said.
The decision is an important step, said committee member Hélène Tigroudja: “The committee has created a way for individuals to assert claims when government measures do not adequately protect particularly vulnerable groups from the negative impacts of climate change on human rights .”
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