‘Guantanamo-Like’ Juvenile Prison Abuse Clips Expose Australia’s Shame

It took two videos to make the Australian government finally look into a problem that human rights groups have long complained about.

After releasing CCTV footage showing juvenile prison guards at Don Dale Detention Center tear-gassing six Aboriginal teen boys, ABC Four Corners released another distressing video highlighting mistreatment of minor inmates.

The new video shows 17-year-old Dylan Voller, one of the six boys who was transferred to the Youth Detention Center in Alice Springs after the incident at Don Dale, hooded and strapped to a mechanical restraint chair.

Voller was reportedly left bound in that position for more than two hours as the guards warned him about “chewing on [his] mattress” and throwing toilet paper in his cell, before threatening to break his hand.

The video is part of an extensive investigation by Four Corners that has helped brought use of excessive force in Australian juvenile detention centers, especially the ones in the Northern Territory, into focus.

John Lawrence, former vice president of the NT Bar Association, compared the treatment of the children to Guantanamo Bay military detention facility.

"We're talking about kids that are being shackled with handcuffs on their ankles, their wrists, their waist areas. They're being shackled to chairs," he told Four Corners. “This is actually happening in Australia in 2016. One of them has had the experience of sitting in one for just under two hours with a spit hood over his head, ala Guantanamo Bay.”

Jared Sharp, another legal practitioner, compared the images to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The videos prompted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to announce a Royal Commission into the alleged abuse occurring at the NT detention centers.

"We will investigate what has happened in the youth detention system in the Northern Territory that is the critical thing to do," Turnbull said. "We're taking action right now. Getting on with the job that Australians expect us to do to get to the bottom of it."

Meanwhile, NT Chief Minister Adam Giles said he saw the abuse footage for the first time on July 25. The following day, he removed John Elferink as NT Corrections Minister, taking over the position himself.

"What came up last night was new information that I understand that both the police nor attorneys general had been aware of in the past and that's why they're referring it again," Giles said.



While the announcement and measures from both Turnbull and Giles have been welcomed, one wonders why it took so long for Australian authorities to pay attention to an issue that had and has been reported by several human rights groups previously.

In October 2015, Human Rights Watch called on the Australian government to provide suitable care for minor offenders and look into juvenile prison abuse happening not just in NT but also in other parts of the country.

Amnesty International pointed toward discrimination against indigenous minors in a separate report released last June.

“Australia locks up indigenous children, from as young as 10 years old, at one of the highest rates in the world,” Amnesty stated. “Overrepresentation is rising, with indigenous children making up less than 6 percent of the population of 10-17-year-olds yet more than half (58 percent) of young people in detention.”

More recently, a few days before the Four Corners videos emerged, the University of Technology in Sydney found indigenous Australians are being “unfairly sentenced for their crimes because of the racist and prejudicial views held by some members of the judicial system.”

However, despite these multiple and repeated reminders, the Australian government only now decided to address the abuse.

Banner Image Credit: Twitter, @YourAKLink

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