Abuse at Nauru “at once dizzying in its scale and utterly damning”

“This leak has laid bare a system of routine dysfunction and cruelty that is at once dizzying in its scale and utterly damning for the Australian authorities who tried so hard to maintain a veil of secrecy, says Amnesty International’s senior director for research Dr Anna Neistat.

She was referring to leaked documents published Wednesday.

Guardian Australia said more than 2,000 incidents, including sexual abuse, assault and attempted self-harm, were reported. The files extend from May 2013 to October 2011.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Thursday said asylum seekers were lying about sexual abuse and repeated comments he made earlier this year that refugee advocates were encouraging detainees to self-harm and set themselves on fire.

“I have been made aware of some incidents that have reported false allegations of sexual assault, because in the end, people have paid money to people smugglers and they want to come to our country,” Dutton said in an interview on Australian radio.

Most of the cases involved children, the newspaper said, although children made up just 18 percent of the people in detention at the time of the reports.

Incidents included:

  • A girl sewed her mouth shut and was laughed at by the guards on duty.
  • A young boy was threatened with his life and, on one occasion, a guard requested sexual favours from someone who wanted a four-minute shower instead of two.

In July Amnesty International conducted a 12-day investigation. It detailed the Australian Government’s design of a “system of deliberate abuse” to deter potential asylum seekers from even attempting to come to Australia.

“[Nauru] is essentially like an open-air prison for these refugees and people seeking asylum,” Neistat added.

“I’ve conducted over 60 investigations into human rights abuses in countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Zimbabwe and China, but few other countries go to such lengths to deliberately inflict suffering on people searching for safety and freedom.”

“I was not expecting this kind of shocking abuse.”

The prime minister of Australia, Mr Malcolm Turnbull stated: “The material that’s been published will be examined. It’s not clear over what time period it relates, at least not in the report that I saw.”

“It will be carefully examined to see if there are any complaints there or issues there that were not properly addressed.”

He added, “The Australian Government provides support to the Government of Nauru and their police force in dealing with complaints of this kind and they have the responsibility for responding to them and dealing with them.”

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News category: Asia Pacific, Top Story.