More than 180 human rights and legal experts, social justice organisations and Indigenous community groups have condemned Queensland law changes allowing children to be detained in police watch houses.

An open letter published yesterday accuses the Palaszczuk government of overriding the state’s Human Rights Act and disregarding several international laws.

It said recent legislative amendments to the Youth Justice Act violate children’s rights and further exacerbate a crisis in Queensland’s broken justice system.

The United Nations’ anti-torture watchdog has been alerted to the law changes in a submission by the First Peoples Disability Network Australia, according to the letter.

Queensland Council of Social Service chief executive Aimee McVeigh said the changes were an “appalling and desperate” bid to cover up the government’s failure to protect children.