Another death in custody: protest called

February 8, 2008

The Western Australian Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (DCWC) has called an urgent public meeting for February 13 to plan a campaign to demand justice for an Aboriginal elder who died on January 27 in the custody of Global Solutions Ltd (GSL), which is contracted by the state government to transport prisoners.

DCWC chairperson Marc Newhouse told Green Left Weekly that the elder's death was "a breach of Australia's human rights obligations under the international Convention on Torture And Other Degrading Treatment and should never have happened".

Nyoongar academic Professor Ted Wilkes said that the conditions the elder was transported in were inhuman. "We've got to have a campaign to ensure this never happens again", he told GLW.

The deceased man was a former Warburton community leader, widely respected for his involvement in campaigns for native title and the preservation of his native culture and language. He was arrested on January 26 at 9.30 pm at his home in Warburton on a charge of drink-driving and taken to the Warburton lock-up.

The next day, he was driven 570 kilometres to the courthouse in Laverton, where he was remanded in custody. Later that day, he was put in the back of a GSL van to be transported another 352km to the Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison. He was found collapsed in the van as it neared Kalgoorlie and died soon afterwards at the Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital.

Newhouse told GLW that the DCWC has been demanding an immediate independent public inquiry. "As it stands, the only inquiry is being conducted by the Department of Correctional Services, a case of the department investigating itself, which just isn't good enough. We're also calling for an immediate end to the use of unsafe vehicles. If people need to be moved such distances, they should be flown. In addition, we're asking for the termination of the GSL contract."

The public meeting will be held at 5.45pm on February 13 at Derbarl Yerrigan Health Services, 156 Wittenoom Street, East Perth.

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