The death of American George Floyd last week and ensuing protests in the United States are a sobering reminder of Australia’s own shameful record on Indigenous deaths in custody.
Since the conclusion of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, more than 420 people have died in police custody without a single conviction recorded and Indigenous people remain grossly over-represented in Australia’s prison system. Amnesty International Australia continues to call for independent and transparent investigation of such incidents.
“We stand in solidarity with Mr Floyd’s family and the families of all the other unarmed people of colour who have died in police custody,” Amnesty International Australia National Director, Sam Klintworth, said.
“But to think this is a problem ‘over there’ and that Australia is free of the kind of racialised violence making international headlines, is to fundamentally misunderstand the issues in our back yard.
To think this is a problem ‘over there’ and that Australia is free of the kind of racialised violence making international headlines, is to fundamentally misunderstand the issues in our back yard.Amnesty International Australia National Director, Sam Klintworth.
“Australia has a shameful record in its treatment of Indigenous people in custody, and has compounded the trauma of dispossession by allowing kids as young as 10 to be locked up, condemning them to the brualising effect of the youth detention system which sees children caught in the quicksand of the justice system, instead of with family in community.”
Regarding the death of Mr Floyd and the subsequent protests in the United States, Amnesty International USA National Director of Research Rachel Ward, issued the following statement regarding the police response to nationwide protests:
“We call on the federal government and U.S. cities and states to act swiftly and meaningfully to address the root cause of these protests and take immediate measures to stop unlawful killings by police of Black people and others. Officers must be prosecuted, all U.S. states must pass laws to restrict the use of lethal force as a last resort to prevent an imminent threat to life, and Congress should pass the PEACE Act to create a federal standard and incentivise state reform.
“Racism and white supremacy are fuelling these killings and the police response to the protests. The federal government should set up a national commission to address all aspects of this crisis including killings by police, the right to protest and ending discrimination. President Trump must end his violent and discriminatory rhetoric and policies.
Additional research and statements from Amnesty International USA on policing, the right to protest, and developments in Minneapolis can be found below:
- Briefing: Good Practice for Law Enforcement Officials Policing Demonstrations
- Report: Deadly Force: Police Use of Lethal Force in the United States
- Press Release: Minneapolis Police Officer Must be Held Accountable for Use of Deadly Force
- Report: On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson
When courageous people protest, they make the world a better place. We must protect the right to protest wherever it is restricted and whenever it is at risk.