A television news broadcast Monday aired disturbing footage of prison guards physically abusing indigenous boys at Australia’s main juvenile facility and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he will launch a public inquiry.
The ABC Investigative News program, Four Corners, obtained surveillance tapes of Indigenous teenage boys being stripped naked, kicked, punched, tear-gassed, and chained to a chair while wearing a hood – reminiscent of the kind of torture associated with the US treatment of Iraqi prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib detention center.
The abuses occurred between 2010 and 2012 at the Alice Springs and Don Dale Youth Detention Centres, within the country's Northern Territory.
By Tuesday morning in Australia, more than five million viewers had watched the videos on Facebook and Turnbull has called the images "appalling."
According to ABC News, the full investigation conducted by the Australia-based Four Corners staff, was presented to the government in 2012, but it was never publicly released.
The executive producer of Four Corners, Sally Neighbour, told Guardian Australia the story of Indigenous incarceration was well under way before the team got its hands on the extraordinary pictures.
“We wanted to do a story on Indigenous incarceration but it doesn’t automatically have pictures. It’s happening in remote places that are difficult and expensive to get to and getting people to talk about this subject is difficult,” Neighbour said.
The allegations mirror those in US junvenile detention centers where prison guards in Chicago, New York, California and elsewhere have been accused of similar mistreatment of black and Latino youths.
One of the children shown in the footage was identified as Dylan Voller, who is shown hooded and tied in a chair. He was 13-year-old when the torture methods began.
Voller is a recidivist prisoner who has been in detention centers since he was 11 years old. His offences include car theft, robberies and assault. His lawyer Peter O'Brien said on Monday that he is currently in an adult prison and called for his immediate release since he claims that he is now in the custody of the same prison officers who previously victimized him.
A total of three incidents are shown in the documentary and according to filmmakers and researchers charges have been brought against the staff involved, however they’ve gone unpunished.