As Australia has been under fire for its tough asylum policies and for recently leaked documents revealing abuse against children, Amnesty International said yesterday that newly obtained documents reveal a culture of mistreatment and abuse in Australian juvenile detention centers that the government should urgently investigate.
The human rights organization said it had uncovered over 1,000 pages of documents that included incidents at two centers 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 center.
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 percent of kids in Cleveland Youth Detention Centre are indigenous, despite being only 8 percent 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.
"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 centers 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."