The UN Human Rights High Commission (UNHRC) has expressed shock at the abuse of minors in an Australian prison after media released footage of the mistreatment, urging Canberra to punish the perpetrators.
“We are shocked by the video footage that has emerged from Don Dale youth detention center in the Northern Territory,” said a UNHRC statement on Friday.
The UN rights body also called on “the authorities to identify those who committed abuses against the children and to hold them responsible for such acts...Compensation should also be provided.”
Earlier this week, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) aired video clips showing prison guards beating teenage detainees, teargassing them and keeping them in solitary confinement for hours.
The guards were also seen hooding the youths, strapping them to chairs naked or half-naked, and throwing them into a cell by the neck at the detention facility.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered an inquiry into the incident.
The UNHRC further urged the Australian government to ratify the Optional Protocol to Convention Against Torture, which would allow independent investigators to regularly inspect the country’s detention facilities.
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez said Thursday that the police use of hoods, restraints and teargas on Australian aboriginal children in juvenile detention centers could violate the UN treaty barring torture.
The victims had earlier filed lawsuits against the center and the guards, seeking compensation.
However, In a July 4 response to the complaints, the Northern Territory government counter-sued, seeking over 120,000 US dollars in damages for “an escape attempt” by two the young detainees.
The case underscores concerns about the disproportionate numbers of aboriginal youth in custody across Australia.
Although aborigines comprise only three percent of Australia’s population, they represent 27 percent of the country’s prison population and make up a whopping 94 percent of the Northern Territory’s juvenile inmates.
Australia’s nearly 700,000 indigenous citizens track near the bottom of almost every economic and social indicator for the country’s 23 million people.