Australian minister says rights commissioner politicizing role

October 22, 2016 10:36 PM EDT

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By Harry Pearl

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian government minister criticized the human rights commissioner on Sunday for comments on the treatment of refugees and reproof of politicians, saying she had politicized her position and made "substantial errors of judgment".

Under Australia's tough immigration policy, people trying to arrive by boat are intercepted and sent to camps on the South Pacific island nation of Nauru and on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island. They are never eligible for settlement in Australia.

The head of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, has had an uneasy relationship with the government since she released a critical report on the treatment of children in detention in 2015, and she has criticized politicians over the treatment of asylum seekers.

Leader of the House Christopher Pyne on Saturday admonished Triggs in an interview with the ABC.

"The human rights commissioner and her position, or his position, should be above politics,” said Pyne, who is also minister for defense.

"Gillian Triggs has made substantial errors of judgment in commenting on the political process and commenting on politicians.”

The Human Rights Commission is an independent body, which has statutory responsibility to investigate complaints and breaches of human rights laws and advise courts and the government on rights issues.

On Saturday, thousands of people rallied in 25 towns and cities across Australia to welcome asylum seekers.

Pyne said it was matter for the prime minister and the attorney general to say if they had confidence in Triggs.

Neither Triggs nor her office was immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Harry Pearl; Editing by Robert Birsel)



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