Amnesty condemns Aborigine treatment

AMNESTY International yesterday delivered a damning report on prison conditions for Aborigines in Australia, where it said some blacks were subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of international standards.

Two years after an Australian Royal Commission inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody recommended sweeping changes to the treatment of Aborigines by police and the law, Amnesty concludes that black Australians are still being incarcerated in 'grossly disproportionate numbers' and that the criminal justice system remains weighted against them.

Although the Australian government has embarked on a 10- year process of 'national reconciliation' with black Australians, Amnesty's report will embarrass Canberra, already under fire from Aborigines, lawyers and welfare groups in Australia over delays in acting on the Royal Commission's proposed reforms.

The Royal Commission investigated deaths in police custody of 99 Aborigines between 1980 and 1989. The Amnesty report was based on a visit to Australia last year by three of its officials.

The Amnesty team welcomed last year's response by Australia's federal and state governments to the Royal Commission's inquiry, in which they committed themselves to wide-ranging social and legal reforms concerning the status of Aborigines. Amnesty described this as a 'serious commitment . . . to addressing the discrimination faced by Aboriginal people in Australia'.

Yet, despite the Royal Commission's disclosure that Aborigines are arrested at 29 times the rate of other Australians, numbers of Aborigines imprisoned have actually increased since the Royal Commission began its inquiry in 1988. The most alarming rise has been in New South Wales, the most populous state, where Aboriginal prisoners increased by 80 per cent. In Victoria, the rise was 75 per cent and in Western Australia 24 per cent.

Amnesty concluded that Aborigines were still much more likely than non-Aborigines to be imprisoned for minor offences such as drunkenness. Although drunkenness has been decriminalised in most of Australia, police resort to other measures to detain blacks. Amnesty says: 'This is exacerbated by discriminatory social practices such as dress regulations which conspire to place severe restrictions on Aboriginal peoples' access to licensed hotels, bars, pubs and even theatres.'

Among the 24 Australian prisons it inspected, Amnesty singled out one in Alice Springs where it said conditions could well be judged unacceptable according to international standards. In Alice Springs, the second largest town in the Northern Territory, Aborigines outnumber non-Aborigines in prison by eight to one.

The Amnesty team described their visit to the prison: 'It was hot and, despite the open eaves, smelled strongly of sweat and urine . . . Prisoners are confined to their dormitories for 16 hours a day. During these periods, the prisoners are obliged to use toilet facilities within their caged sub-divisions with little or no privacy.'

Some prison administrators told Amnesty such conditions were 'eminently suitable' for Aborigines because they preferred to sleep communally, but that non- Aboriginal prisoners would not be able to cope with such conditions.

The Amnesty report concluded: 'Whatever may be the validity of these assertions, Amnesty International is concerned that such cultural suppositions should not be used as an excuse to provide grossly inadequate, overcrowded or degrading communal accommodation specifically for Aboriginal people.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower