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Australia jail abuse may amount to torture: UN official


The United Nations (UN) says the recently-revealed mistreatment of aboriginal minors in an Australian prison could amount to torture.

The harsh treatment of the minors was revealed on Monday, when the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) released a video clip from the Don Dale Youth Detention Center in Australia’s Northern Territory.

The footage, shot between 2010-2014, showed guards beating six teenage prisoners, tear-gassing them, throwing them into cells by the neck, covering their heads with hoods and strapping them naked or half-naked to special chairs.

“It’s hard to tell only from the video or the press coverage but I do think that it’s a very worrisome development that can amount to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under any circumstance,” said Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, on Thursday.

The revelation prompted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to order a Royal Commission, the most powerful inquiry in the country, to launch a thorough investigation into the mistreatment of children in detention.

Australia’s Northern Territory has also suspended the use of hood restraints on children.


This frame grab from an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) program purportedly shows a teenage boy hooded and strapped into a chair at a youth detention center in the Northern Territory city of Darwin, Australia. (Via AFP)

Rights body Save the Children has said the investigation needs to be Australia-wide, and not just limited to the Northern Territory.

Warren Mundine, an Australian Aboriginal leader, has said the crime rate within the community of the native Australians has to be investigated, too.

“If you’re just looking at abuses in the system, you’re not going to resolve the bigger issue. We need to deal with crime rates within indigenous communities… You just can’t do one without the other,” said Mundine, who also heads the prime minister’s indigenous advisory council, on Wednesday.

Local human rights activists say UK-based Amnesty International has already warned Australian officials about the abuse of children in the Northern Territory prisons.

They say the government has turned a blind eye to the issue because the teens involved were indigenous.

Of Australia’s 24 million people, some 700,000 are aborigines, who rank near the bottom of almost every economic and social indicator. Aborigines also make up the majority of the Northern Territory’s population as well as about 95 percent of its minor detainees.

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