… this letter for new pm

“… this letter for new pm,

why they treat us like that i don’t know what we have done to them I don’t know even those who were close to us as a friend from Australia with an order beat us which I hadn’t expected to do it which I respect them and shared the story of my life which who just told us about his holiday in travelling to other countries and how they enjoyed it after left the place where we are suffering more than enough and held for long time without seeing other Ordinary things we are not jealous of them but when they talk about humanity we expect to see humanity not cruelty please treat us like humans when you tell me brother in our culture we treat you as a brother, is that Australian culture after telling you brother with one order assault to them because of this bloody money, why Australian citizen are silent when the border force act said that don’t speak out when you see the abuses and if you say something you will go to jail, is there like that in Australia abuse doesn’t have any punishment in our fucking country we had law but because they didn’t obey we scape and come to your country by boat because was not any legal wait to to come legally to your country we risk our lives in ocean waves to catch the hands of your help not to living with fear in a place that you brought us by force we didn’t come to destroy your country we are not your enemies, I don’t like begging for anything but your treatment forced me to do it again and again, congrats to new pm please you show us the real Australian treatment not like that guard or immigration officer who assaulted to me and other people in offshore, if that makes sense to you please show humanity to us”

– Manus

Press Release September 18 2015



18th September 2015

PDF // Press Release 18/09/2015

‘As if they had arrested a criminal from Daesh group’, is how one witness described the harsh, cruel, degrading and inhumane punishment meted out to a 20 year old asylum seeker on Nauru.

This episode is the latest in the shocking brutalisation of one family on Nauru.

The young man is the brother of Nazanin, a 23 year old woman allegedly raped on Nauru in May. Following the alleged rape the woman tried to kill herself twice. Although critically ill for weeks, it was not until she was on the verge of organ failure that she was finally medivaced, alone, to Australia.

On the day of Nazanin’s second suicide attempt, her brother heard her scream and ran toward her. After being pinned down by two Australian officials, the young asylum seeker was then taken by Nauruan police and imprisoned in a cell for more than 30 hours where, he reported, ‘passers by, including guards, urinated through the bars’.

The young asylum seeker and his ill mother remain in Nauru separated from the sister.

This instance is not isolated but is part of the systematic degradation and violence, especially sexual violence, meted out to detainees in Nauru and Manus Island.

As this media release goes out, reports are emerging of another brutal rape of a refugee on Nauru.

Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites has previously called attention to the harsh, cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment, tantamount to torture, enacted in the black sites that are Australia’s off-shore immigration detention centres.

As Australia prepares to welcome refugees from Syria and to stake its claim as a good global citizen, we call on our new Prime Minister to attend to the asylum seekers we have incarcerated off-shore though they are not accused of any crime.

In a letter congratulating Mr Turnbull, men detained on Manus Island write, ‘We are happy for them [those fleeing Syria] as they welcome, because we know the pain of them and understand them more than others’. They ask the Prime Minister to ‘bring back the taste of freedom and living to us’.

Another 20 year old Syrian man detained on Manus Island for 27 months told Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites that he too was beaten and imprisoned. ‘We are Alive Aylan. But I have been suffering for more than 2 years in worst living conditions. No one sees our pain. We are right here in Manus. We are dying here’.

Immediately after assuming the role of Prime Minister elect, Mr Turnbull pledged to run ‘a thoroughly liberal government’.

How long can a government pledged to liberal principles countenance the harsh, cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment of people under their care?

Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites call on Prime Minister Turnbull to rise to the challenge of ending the cruel and degrading conditions for asylum seekers and refugees in offhshore detention.

Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites: Professor Suvendrini Perera, Professor Joseph Pugliese, Janet Galbraith

Media Contact: Janet Galbraith 0418399646.

The Dentist


Running. I am running In the forest with people hunting me. I hear their feet running behind me. I look back at scary faces and red teeth. They scream as they run, lift their spears. I have no shoes – but I run. Closer – they are coming closer.

I can see the ocean and now I am stuck between these screaming people and the ocean. I lift my hands up. Surrender. Closer – they come closer. The chief throws his spear toward me.

I wake in fright.

It is the middle of the night.

I hear a scream. This is the scream I just heard in my dream.

Afraid, I rise and search for the screamer.

Walking along a corridor I find many security from the Papua New Guinean army.

They stand in a circle around a table. Their teeth too are red. Later I find that this redness is the result of some kind of herb. Seli is screaming, curled against the excruciating pain in his teeth. A security officer takes his leg, clamps it down tight.

Another officer takes Seli’s face, holds his head, forces open his jaw, shines a candle into his mouth.

Mark takes some wire from the fence. Mark knows how to use the wire. Here in Manus camp, he has many patients.

Mark heats the end of the wire with a cigarette lighter, pushes the red tip into the hole in Seli’s tooth and tells him not to make too much noise. The wire sizzles against the nerve. Mark quickly pulls the wire out, heats the tip again, sticks the red tip in the hole, pulls it out, heats and repeats. This goes on for an hour.

Seli has lived with this torturous pain for five months. There is no clinic, no one to treat him and the many others who also suffer here in Manus camp. Mark has become our dentist in this place where there is none. He knows how to use the wire and sometimes his wire will alleviate the pain – for a while. He has treated many people with his wire over the past 15 months.

Added to this treatment are the painkillers that we take every day. Every day we stand in line at Medical, waiting for pain killers. Over and over we take these drugs.

It is our daily routine.

A few days ago, we were happy. After 15 months, immigration was sending us a dentist. It seems the media’s pressure forced this issue.

When the dentist arrives he starts work on the more than 300 people who have bad teeth and bad pain. Seli is one of them.

Yesterday I was surprised to see Seli in the medicine line again. I asked him, ‘Seli – why are you here? Seli, are you ok? Are your teeth good?’

He answered me with with a sardonic smile, shook his head, turned and shuffled forward in line for his drugs.

I think to myself, ‘Seli is now an addict.’

– Behrouz Boochani

Remember those slowly dying of Australia’s Deterrence Policy



PDF File // Press Release 07/09/2015

‘After the incidents in Europe and their help to refugees why Australian immigration will not even help one girl’.

These are the words of Nazanin’s 20 year old brother, desperate for her to remain in Australia and receive the medical ttreatment that she needs.  Under current policy, and according to all indications, Nazanin will be returned to Nauru as soon as she is deemed physically well enough to travel.

The current wide spread concern for refugees drowning in the ocean must not be divorced from the slow deaths and tortures that refugees are experiencing in Australian run detention centres.  A writer detained for 26 months on Manus Island has written a letter stating: ‘I wish I too had died in the ocean’.

Poet Kaveh Arya released a poem on facebook following the circulation of images of the young Kurdish boy Aylan Kurdi who had drowned whilst seeking asylum with his family.  The final line of the poem being:  ‘we love dead children more’.

Natasha Blucher, former STC worker on Nauru reminds us in a letter published in the NT Times that we must also  ‘[g]rieve for the 110 children in detention in Australia, who are not dead but are still becoming lifeless’.

While we indulge in grief and sorrow for the beautiful boy lost on the shores of Europe, we cannot allow ourselves to forget that children, men and women who have are being punished in our deterrent detention camps for making precisely the same voyage by boat to our shores.

Nazanin and her remaining family made that voyage.  Nazanin is also someone’s child.  Her mother is grieving the rape and subsequent trauma that Nazanin has suffered under the watch of the Australian government and the unbearable separation she is forced to endure as she remains detained in Nauru with little access to information on how her daughter is, whilst always aware that Nazanin could be returned at any moment.

‘If Nazanin comes back she will die.  We know she will kill herself.   We have watched for long time how scared she is.  There is no safe place here.  She needs to be in safe place’, says her family.

Trauma Specialist Dr Helen Driscoll reiterates this: ‘To return Nazanin to Nauru violates every foundation imperative in clinical and human responses to her life threatening trauma and consequent impact . .. To return her is dooming her to die. No ethical clinician in the field of trauma would support a return to Nauru’

Researchers Against Black Sites calls on the people of Australia to demand that Nazanin is not returned to Nauru and that her mother and brother are brought to Australia to be with her.

We call on all involved in the GetUp Light the Dark Vigils to remember this family and take action.

We also call on all present at the GetUp Light the Dark Vigils to remember all those held in Australian run detention centres in Manus Island and Nauru.

Researchers for Pacific Black Sites: Professor Suvendrini Perera, Professor Joseph Pugliese, Janet Galbraith
Consultant: Dr Helen Driscoll.
Media Contact: Janet Galbraith

‘This is not treatment for Trauma, this is Abuse’, says trauma specialist



PDF File // Press Release 05/09/2015

Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites believe that it is imperative that rape victim and asylum seeker Nazanin’s mother and brother are brought immediately to Australia to be with her.

Not only has Nazanin been subject to cruel treatment since she was assaulted and raped on Nauru in May, but Nazanin’s family have also been subject to inordinate pressure with her twenty year old brother being beaten, and jailed for 36 hours without charge.

On the day of Nazanin’s second suicide attempt he was grabbed and assaulted by guards, cuffed and forced to spend those 36 hours in a Nauru prison cell wet with piss.

The family have been too afraid to speak of much of the pressure they have been under for fear that it would affect Nazanin’s treatment, however, media attention and the visit today of the UN to Nauru have made them feel more secure.

Internationally recognised psychiatrist and trauma specialist Dr Helen Driscoll MBBS FRANZCP:

‘The fact that it is necessary to defend the absolute imperative for a victim of violent rape to have safety, dignity, close family and cultural support and connectedness, is profoundly shocking.

The fact that Nazanin’s perpetrator/s have not been apprehended, and her brother and family have been taunted and abused on this small island, and the fact that they remain in the captivity  and at the mercy of a secret system is mind-blowing to me as a specialist clinician.

It is analogous to patching up the victims of severe family violence, discharging them under escort from hospital and placing them back into the violent ‘home’.

This is not treatment for trauma this is abuse.’

Following Radio National report, permission to visit Nazanin has been granted to two people.

Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites hold the Commonwealth Government of Australia and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection responsible for the wellbeing of Nazanin’s family on Nauru should there be any repercussions because of their speaking out.  We hold the Commonwealth Government of Australia and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection responsible for the wellbeing of Nazanin.

Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites: Professor Suvendrini Perera, Professor Joseph Pugliese, Janet Galbraith
Consultant: Dr Helen Driscoll
Media Contact: Janet Galbraith 041839964

Offshore detention ‘black sites’ open door to torture

An article by Suvendrini Perera and Joseph Pugliese; originally published in The Conversation August 26, 2015 2.02pm AEST

Conditions in Australia’s detention camps on Nauru and PNG’s Manus Island have reached intolerable levels of violence and abuse committed with apparent impunity. The Australian government disclaims responsibility for such events, which have attracted criticism from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

 An image from the Manus Island detention centre during a hunger strike by asylum seekers in January. AAP/Refugee Action Collective
An image from the Manus Island detention centre during a hunger strike by asylum seekers in January. AAP/Refugee Action Collective

As academics who have studied the “war on terror” in detail over more than a decade, we feel that the parallels between the US extra-legal prisons at Guantanamo and elsewhere and our Pacific equivalents have become acute and must be exposed.

Offshoring, outsourcing, indefinite detention and extreme and arbitrary violence, including sexual violence, by the officials in charge are among the key characteristics of these detention sites. These centres operate outside of effective state jurisdiction.

Avoiding accountability for sexual violence

We begin by juxtaposing two recent incidents of sexual violence at the shadowy border between Australia and its Pacific gulags.

The first relates to an incident in mid-July. Local PNG police apprehended three male Australian citizens and a PNG woman who were employed by Wilson Security at the Manus Island detention centre.

According to an ABC report, all were naked and appeared intoxicated and disoriented. In ensuing days, the woman reportedly told police she was given pills and sexually assaulted. Police initiated an investigation of “attempted rape, indecent exposure and sexual assault”.

Before the local police could complete their investigations, the three men were flown back to Australia with the co-operation of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). PNG authorities publicly expressed their chagrin. Commander Alex N’Drasal of the PNG provincial police stated:

They [DIBP] are concealing a lot of information from us.

What this incident reveals is that Australian employees in the camps enjoy the status of an occupying force who are not properly accountable to local law. The incident exposes the legal sleights of hand by which the Australian government claims that it is not responsible for sexual violence in the camps, even as its citizens are shielded from the consequence of their actions there.

This incident, and other similar incidents, evidences the creation of Australia’s version of the secretive US “black sites” that operated during the war on terror.

As one Australian reporter observes:
We have … created a distant exclusion zone for mandatory reporting; a black site whose governing legislation is a repudiation of our own laws.

The Pacific black sites also blur the distinction between those recognised as refugees and “settled” in the local community and those still in detention: both groups are subject to unsafe, xenophobic and threatening conditions. Yet Australia refuses to accept responsibility) even as it expends millions of dollars in Australian public funds for their maintenance.

Australians have had to rely on Senate inquiry hearings to establish much of what we know about abuses in the detention centres. AAP/Lukas Coch

The swift removal from PNG of the Australians accused of rape is in striking contrast to that of a young woman reportedly subjected to a brutal rape on Nauru. The 23-year-old Iranian refugee was allegedly raped as she made her back to the family camp after a day release. She was traumatised and severely depressed, but was left on Nauru for three months.

Last week, after a chorus of protest, she was reported to have been flown to Australia. But there are no indications of her condition or the treatment made available to her. According to reports last week, the woman is in grave danger of kidney failure.

This case is not unique. There is a documented history of sexual abuse and violence against refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island. Those in need of urgent medical treatment have been brought to Australia only after they have reached a critical stage.

Last year, a 22-year-old Iranian asylum seeker, Hamid Kehazaei, died of a heart attack after contracting septicaemia in the squalid conditions of Manus Island. Only once his life was in the balance was he airlifted for urgent medical care.

When black sites redefine torture

We cannot but understand these events in light of the guidelines on the allowable thresholds between life and death that could be reached during torture, which the US Office of Legal Counsel issued to the then US president, George W. Bush. Known as the Torture Memos, these guidelines licensed the culture of torture that pervaded the gulags of the war on terror.

The memos meticulously mapped the allowable threshold that could be reached before a prisoner could be said to have been tortured. Any violent act up to that point was allowable within the legal obfuscations of these infamous documents.

A particularly salient section from the Bybee Torture Memo states:

These [US anti-torture] statutes suggest that “severe pain”, as used in Section 2340, must rise to … the level that would ordinarily be associated with a sufficiently serious physical condition or injury such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of bodily functions – in order to constitute torture.

In other words, any violent action inflicted on the victim that fails to produce potentially fatal results is quarantined from qualifying as torture. While we understand that the comparison we are making would seem shocking to many, based on our long-standing research in this area we see no option but to identify practices in Australia’s own Pacific gulags as tantamount to torture.

Whistleblower Jon Nichols has told a Senate inquiry he believes some detention centre staff tortured detainees. AAP/Lukas Coch

Recently, a whistleblower who worked in the Nauru detention centre went public with allegations that waterboarding took place in the compound and that cable-ties were used to chain asylum seekers to beds and fences.

His allegations, and the delays in providing medical treatment for asylum seekers and refugees until their condition becomes critical, lend weight to our argument that that there seems to be little or no distinction between care and punishment, or between asylum seekers and those identified as “enemy combatants” in the war on terror.

The Nauru whistleblower claimed some detention centre staff, including several former military personnel, harbour hatred toward asylum seekers “who they perceive to be the enemy, [though they are] the people they are supposed to be providing care for”.

A growing number of voices are recognising that we have crossed a threshold. Official policies have converted people seeking refuge into the enemy, leading to the logic that they deserve not care but punishment and abuse from the state and its agents.

This has been an incremental process. In the 14 years since the arrival of the Tampa at a critical juncture in the war on terror, we have witnessed an institutional creep whereby governmental responsibility has been outsourced and dubious forms of law have licensed extra-judicial violence against people accused of no crime.

The recent release of the US Senate’s torture report revealed, all too late, the damage such practices caused to US claims to be a nation of just law and ethical practice. Australia is now well down this same road.

This article has been amended since publication to correct the nationality of Hamid Kehazaei.