The Manus Island Regional Processing Facility in Papua New Guinea
The International Criminal Court in The Hague has been asked to examine the use of offshore camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus where hundreds of men, women and children are detained indeterminately.
In a 100-page submission, the International Human Rights Clinic at the Stanford Law School in the US and the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) have summarised practices on the islands over the last decade and harrowing accounts of conditions.
Doctors who have been on the islands regard the levels of self-harm among refugees as being at epidemic proportions, according to the lawyers.
Omid Masoumali, a male refugee on Nauru, died by self-immolation in April last year and a few days later a woman set herself on fire and suffered serious burns to over 70% of her body.
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Suspected asylum seekers arrive on an island
Reports on conditions on the islands, which were leaked last year, claimed seven child sexual assaults and 59 physical assaults.
It is a physical and mental suffering they are going through
Dr Ioannis Kalpouzos
Dr Ioannis Kalpouzos, lecturer at City Law School, University of London and GLAN chairman, said: "We are witnessing the normalisation of crimes committed against the world's most vulnerable population – refugees."
He added: "It is a physical and mental suffering they are going through."
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The International Criminal Court has been asked to examine the use of offshore camps on two islands
The most up-to-date figures record 390 people, including 45 children, detained on Nauru and 872 on Manus, about 3,000km and 1,000km from Australia respectively.
Hundreds of others who were sent to the islands since 2008 are no longer in formal detention but have been forced to remain on the islands.
The camps have been used to detain people who arrive in Australia by boat without a visa and seeking asylum. They are told they will not be settling in Australia but are not offered any other viable resettlement alternative.
A team from Stanford Law School investigated the situation and collected first-hand accounts of the conditions on the islands but were not able to see the camps first-hand.
The submission has been made to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, which deals with cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Ms Diala Shamas, clinical supervising attorney and lecturer at the Stanford clinic, said: "At a time when global powers including the United States are shutting their doors to refugees, it is crucial for international legal institutions to protect them."
Nauru and Papua New Guinea have been paid for the use of the land.
A male refugee on Nauru died by self-immolation last year
The United Nations and rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also documented and condemned the use of the islands, where private companies run the detention camps.
Australia last year made a commitment to close the detention centre on Manus island.
There is no indication how long the court prosecutor's office will take to assess the case or whether it will be accepted.
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