A complaint has been made to the OECD concerning Aussie PR firm Mercer PR, after it published the personal details of a woman raped at Australia’s offshore detention centre on Nauru. Mercer PR is the agency acting for the Nauruan Government.
For the past two years, the National Justice Project (NJP) and Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru (AWSWN) have been fighting for justice for a woman known as “Najma” who was raped on Nauru. Following the rape, her sensitive personal details were allegedly released to the media by Mercer PR.
AWSWN and NJP made a complaint to the Australian OECD contact point on Najma’s behalf to demand justice for the breach of her rights and to protect other women on Nauru from similar breaches.
Adjunct Professor George Newhouse of NJP said: “It is my view that by releasing these intimate details, it is likely that Mercer PR and the Nauru government have made women on Nauru unsafe by deterring them from making complaints about rape and gender-based violence to the police. Their actions have also re-traumatised Najma.”
AWSWN’s Julie Macken said: “In my opinion, the Nauruan government put the sensitive details of a woman’s assault into a media release to send a clear and brutal message to any other woman wanting to speak about their sexual assault.
“We will never know whether the Australian government condoned or condemned this breach of Najma’s human rights because the prime minister appears to have nothing to say about it. Najma is a woman of enormous strength and courage and I hope she will recover, the same cannot be said for the Australian government that looks on and does not acknowledge the abuse of women on Nauru.”
In a statement, the NJP added: “This case shows that Australian companies working for foreign governments need to maintain international human rights notwithstanding their client’s instructions. The NJP is investigating whether further legal action could be taken.”
This afternoon, Mercer PR issued a follow-up statement expressing its regret over the incident. The statement read in full:
Our thoughts are with the woman referred to in this article. We expressed regret about this matter in 2015 and at that time we immediately changed procedures to address what happened.
This report from an obscure government organisation with no authority, about OECD guidelines no one has heard of except activist lawyers, is extremely misleading and omits many facts that were relevant in the highly charged political atmosphere of the time. We feel this is political activism at its worst – using international guidelines developed for huge multinational companies to target a local small business.
This matter is about one press release sent almost four years ago. Surely this report is completely out of proportion and a gross waste of taxpayer money!
We believe that we have been used as a pawn in the battle between refugee activists and the Australian Government over offshore processing. We support respectful debate just as we support the right of our client, the Government of Nauru, to publicly counter false and unjustified attacks on their wonderful country. Mercer PR has always acted ethically and when this was brought to our attention in 2015 we recognised the importance of human dignity and acted accordingly. We have not released public statements for this client since that time.