Amnesty International is deeply disappointed by the Northern Territory Police Association President Vince Kelly’s comments alleging Aboriginal poor health and alcoholism as key factors contributing towards deaths in police custody.
“The tragic death of Terrance Briscoe last week highlights government inaction in implementing the recommendations made more than 20 years ago in Australia’s most significant inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody,” said Claire Mallinson, National Director of Amnesty International Australia.
“Mr Kelly’s comments simply ignore the underlying social, cultural and legal issues concerning Aboriginal deaths in custody that remain unaddressed in this county,” said Mallinson.
Amnesty International welcomes the coronial and police investigations into Mr Briscoe’s death but also calls for an impartial investigation of the highest standard, independent of the police responsible for Mr Briscoe’s custody.
“What we saw in the flawed police investigations into the deaths of Palm Islander Mulrunji Doomadgee and West Australian Aboriginal leader Mr Ward were systemic failures of authorities to deliver justice for these deaths and must not be repeated,” said Mallinson.
Amnesty International last year wrote to then Attorney-General Robert McLellend expressing concern about the outcome of investigations into the deaths of Mr Doomadgee and Mr Ward and urging him to take all possible steps to increase the protection of individuals held in police custody.
The organisation calls for all levels of government to implement the 339 recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in 1991.
“We are particularly concerned at the failure to implement the recommendations directed at ensuring all deaths in custody are as rigorously investigated as homicides in a transparent and impartial manner.
“People in custody must be treated in accordance with the international standards that Australia has sworn to uphold. It’s high time Federal, State and Territory Governments made sure that proper standards of care are implemented and adhered to,” said Mallinson.