Rights group: Broad culture of abuse in Australian juvenile detention

Newly obtained documents reveal a culture of mistreatment and abuse in Australian juvenile detention centres that the government should urgently investigate, Amnesty International said Thursday.

The human rights organization said it had uncovered over 1,000 pages of documents that included incidents at two centres in the northern state of Queensland between 2010 and 2015.

Among the incidents cited by Amnesty include staff members putting child detainees in prolonged solitary confinement, deploying a security dog on children threatening suicide and conducting partial strip searches using humiliating methods.

The cases demonstrated the failure of care for vulnerable children, and the lack of accountability in the detention system, it said.

The report also revealed there were at least 31 suicide attempts by children who tied "ligatures around their necks" at one centre.

The organization alleged that "the problem is systemic and goes beyond politics." Amnesty International obtained the reports by the Queensland government's youth detention inspectorate under right to information laws.

Roxanne Moore, a rights campaigner at Amnesty International, said the incidents primarily involved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, because they were "massively over-represented in Queensland justice system."

"In fact, on an average day, 89 per cent of kids in Cleveland Youth Detention Centre are indigenous, despite being only 8 per cent of the youth population of Queensland," she told dpa, adding that indigenous children were 22 times more likely to be detained than non-indigenous in the Australian state.

Last month, local broadcaster ABC uncovered systemic abuse and mistreatment of children in a Northern Territory jail, with graphic footage showing boys between 14 and 17 years old in the prison being sprayed with tear gas in their cells, strapped to chairs with hoods over their heads and being beaten by guards.

The revelation forced Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to launch an official investigation. But he rejected calls to expand the inquiry to other juvenile centres, saying state governments should hold separate enquiries into their own detention systems.

"We have seen this abuse in the Northern Territory, now we are seeing it in Queensland - we know it happens all over Australia," Moore said on Thursday.

"The abuse is systemic, and that is why the system needs to change."

She said the federal government needs to appoint independent inspectors with access to detention centres around Australia, But, she added, "Governments at all levels must also work to keep children out of the justice system by addressing social problems through methods of prevention and rehabilitation, rather than punishment."

Last update: Thu, 18/08/2016 - 12:10

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