(THE AUSTRALIAN) – A PAPUA New Guinean man employed by the Salvation Army led the “brutal beating’’ that killed Iranian asylum-seeker Reza Barati during the riots on PNG’s Manus Island, an independent review has been told.
Mr Barati, 23, died after being struck and kicked by detention centre officers before a rock was dropped on his head, the review heard.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison today released the independent review of the February riots at the Papua New Guinea Centre, during which at least 69 people were injured.
Mr Morrison said the review by former public servant Robert Cornall attempted to reveal what happened during a “terrible few days’’ at the asylum-seeker processing facility.
Releasing the report, he said the riots between February 16 and 18 followed increasing tensions, anger and frustrations among detainees.
The review said Mr Barati suffered a severe brain injury “caused by a brutal beating by several assailants’’.
The review interviewed an eyewitness to the attack.
“He said the attack was led by an identified PNG national employed by The Salvation Army and he named several other witnesses who he says can corroborate his statement.’’
FULL REPORT: Review of Manus Island riots
The report includes the testimony of witnesses who said they saw Mr Berati struck by the PNG national before being assaulted by other guards.
“When he fall down, more than 10 officer passed him and all of them, they kicked him in the head,’’ said the account of a witness, “Mr T3’’.
“When he fall, all of the guards who were passing, they kick him in his head, and the last one, one of the PNG locals…..he put a very big stone at his head.’’
A medical officer said “Mr Barati’s head was shattered by a crack on the left side of the skull’’, said the report.
Mr Morrison said a “proper process’’ was now underway way to deal with criminality during the riots.
The names of alleged offenders had been redacted from the report as police were conducting investigations to charge those involved.
The report makes 13 recommendations, all of which were being implemented or in the process of being implemented.
The review found there was no particular factor that caused the violence.
“It is not possible to isolate one factor which, if handled differently, may have resulted in less injuries and damage or to apportion blame for causing the incidents directly to one or more of the parties involved,’’ it says.
But it says frustration and anxiety over a lack of information about resettlement policies was a key contributor to the tensions.
Tensions were also aggravated by “the antagonism that had been developed between some transferees and PNG nationals employed at the centre and supporters in the local community. Some transferees treated PNG nationals employed in centre in a disrespectful and racist manner, and criticised their country.”
Mr Morrison said the deaths and injuries would not have happened had detainees not mounted a series of protests, but the protests could in no way justify what followed.
The review said there was a “major task ahead’’ to rebuild trust between the centre operators and inmates and charges against those responsible “will play a large part in restoring that trust’’.
The report notes that over the two days of riots at least 69 people had been treated for injuries, while others had come forward for treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in the subsequent weeks after the riots.
Apart from Mr Barati, the most significant injuries were to a detainee who lost his right eye, another who was shot in the buttocks and another who was slashed across the throat.