7 May 2016

Australia owes duty of care to rape victim - court

11:03 am on 7 May 2016

A Federal Court in Australia has ruled that the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton owes a young African refugee raped on Nauru a duty of care, and must not force her to terminate her pregnancy in Papua New Guinea where it is neither safe nor legal.

But uncertainty still surrounds the woman's fate, with Mr Dutton and his department under no obligation to bring her to Australia for a safe and legal abortion - only to ensure she receives one.

The young woman, who was semi-conscious after suffering a suspected epileptic seizure when she was attacked on Nauru, had begged authorities to let her come to Australia to terminate the pregnancy she does not want.

Instead, Australia sent her to Papua New Guinea, where the criminal code states abortion is illegal.

Since then the woman, known only as S99, has spent a month in limbo in a Port Moresby hotel room, as first the High Court, and then the Federal Court, considered her fate.

The Sydney Morning Herald says her barrister, Ron Merkel, told the court the woman had told her legal team on Thursday she felt she was "going crazy" and said she might hurt herself "like Hodan" - a reference to the young Somali woman who this week set herself on fire on Nauru.

Handing down his findings late on Friday, Justice Mordecai Bromberg told the court the woman must be considered under the protection of Australian law, despite the fact she lives in Nauru.

He said Australia, by extension, had a duty of care to provide the woman with a safe and lawful abortion.

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