AFP uses teargas, handcuffs and strip searches on all Woomera residents

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Narrogin
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130
Web: http://www.safecom.org.au/

AFP uses teargas, handcuffs and strip searches on all Woomera residents

Media Release
Thursday 2 January 2003 - 16:00 WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

A former ACM staff member who does not want to be identified, has revealed to Project SafeCom Inc. how Australasian Correctional Management and Australian Federal police have carried out their socalled 'crackdown' in the Woomera detention centre in South Australia's outback.

Project SafeCom's Jack Smit reports that teargas was indiscriminately used on all Woomera residents on New Year's eve, and how the entire resident population was herded into the centre's basketball court in the full desert sun for an entire day without as much as a drink of water, while Woomera's about 130 residents were handcuffed for more than 48 hours.

After this week's fire at the Woomera detention centre, AFP and ACM staff herded everyone into the mess room on New Year's eve, and teargas was used on detainees. This teargas was reportedly used on everyone, and used indiscriminately. The entire population of the Woomera detention centre was handcuffed, a situation with has remained in place for at least 48 hours.

On New Year's day at about 10am AFP and ACM started on a search of all compounds for contraband. Before they started their search at the Oscar compound - working through the compounds one at the time, they herded all - still handcuffed - residents from all compounds to the outside basketball court, and they kept the entire population in this outside location for at least seven hours. The search of all compounds was finished at about 9pm that day.

Project SafeCom's source reveals that while ACM and AFP replenished themselves with Coke and water throughout the day, the handcuffed detainees were not given anything to drink.

Also - reportedly on New Year's eve - all men were stripped naked, without exception. This strip search was not limited to those who may have been identified as suspected 'troublemakers' or ringleaders or those suspected of starting the fire at the Woomera centre. Those men who hesitated or refused, for normal hesitancy, privacy or religious reasons, were simply left standing until they complied. This strip search may have happened in the mentioned 'mess room', or in a more discrete environment - details about this were not given.

"There are an estimated 30 women and 16 children amongst the Woomera population, who were presumably exposed and part of these events", Mr Smit said.

"All detainees are allowed to have a cassette player as their private property. Before these items are passed to detainees, the recording facility is disabled by ACM", Mr Smit reported.

"I do not know why this is so", Mr Smit said. "Maybe ACM wants to avoid at all cost for this type of action to be recorded and sent out. Now as one of the results of the fires, all cassette players have been confiscated".

He went on to say: "There is now just one washing machine for about 130 people. Since the crackdown residents are no longer allowed to consume meals in their own rooms. Reportedly, detainees are no longer allowed to send any mail anymore."

Mr Smit concluded: "I am not a lawyer. But it seems clear to me that once again this government is guilty of human rights abuses. There is a system in place in Australia through the deliberate creation of this horrendous mandatory detention regime, which creates and promotes severe secrecy, standover tactics, intimidation and oppression."

"To me it seems that all of the key aspects of this policy need to be tested in an appropriate court, to see whether this kind of approach, appallingly so created by the Howard government in response to the UN Refugee Convention, and the way it crushes all rights of human beings, constitutes a crime against humanity".

"It's time someone with more legal knowledge than me takes this government to an appropriate court to test this."

For more information call
Project SafeCom on 041 70 90 130
web: http://www.safecom.org/refugees.htm

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NOTE: Similar events have been reported as occurring in the Baxter detention centre. Some new reports have just been posted at the website:

http://www.baxterwatch.net/

For more information about Baxter events, call:

Grant van Riessen Mobile: 041 601 2957

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