SYDNEY (AFP) – Teenagers imprisoned at a detention centre where some youngsters were shackled, tear-gassed and stripped, drawing comparisons with Guantanamo Bay, launched legal action Wednesday against Australian authorities.
Graphic footage showing conditions inside the Don Dale youth detention centre, aired last year, sparked public outrage across Australia, and led to a government inquiry. In one video from 2015, a 17-year-old boy was hooded, shackled to a restraint chair and left alone for two hours at the facility in Darwin, with critics likening it to the controversial US military prison in Cuba.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn filed the action against the Northern Territory government on behalf of current and former inmates, including Dylan Jenkings and Aaron Hyde.
They “allege that during their detainment they were subjected to treatment giving rise to a civil claim for compensation founded on assault, battery and/or false imprisonment,” the firm said.
Other former inmates who claim to have been assaulted by guards, or subjected to unreasonable periods of isolation or restraint over the past decade, were invited to join the action.
Jenkings, reportedly now 18, claims that last year he was punched twice in the back of the head and beaten with batons by guards at Don Dale and then locked in a cell for 48 hours.
He also alleges that on a separate occasion he was beaten and kicked by guards while in handcuffs.
Hyde, now 20, said he was removed from his room in Don Dale, handcuffed when it was not necessary and struck in the ribs multiple times by guards.
He also alleges he was taken to the Don Dale basketball court where he was handcuffed to a fence with his arms above his head and left like that for up to an hour.
Local officials said they were seeking legal advice.
“The Northern Territory government has been advised of a potential class action concerning youth justice. We take these matters very seriously,” said Acting Chief Minister Nicole Manison in a statement.
“Our government’s focus remains on finding solutions to the problems that have historically surrounded youth justice in the Territory.”
While the government inquiry is not focussing specifically on indigenous offenders, they are over-represented in the Northern Territory’s juvenile justice system, reportedly accounting for 95 per cent of children in detention.