The parents of asylum seeker Reza Barati are suing the Australian government over his murder in an Australian-run offshore detention centre.
The 23-year-old Iranian was beaten to death by guards and other workers during a violent confrontation at the Manus Island detention centre in 2014.
His parents, Ita Torab Barati and Farideh Baralak, have filed a civil claim in the Victorian supreme court seeking exemplary damages from the commonwealth and the security contractor G4S Australia for wrongful death and mental harm. They claim the government’s negligence, and that of G4S Australia, were to blame for their son’s murder.
It is understood to be the first time a case has been filed in Australian courts on behalf of someone who has died in offshore detention.
Torab Barati said his son had never received justice.
“Our family is heartbroken and we have been suffering for so long with his death,” he said.
“We won’t recover from our loss. I do not want the human rights of my child to be ignored or forgotten by the world.
“I want justice for my son. I don’t want his death to be insignificant.”
More than 70 refugees and asylum seekers were injured during two days of unrest and rioting in February 2014.
According to court documents, Barati was returning to his room on 17 February after gunshots were fired into his compound, when a local detention centre worker in a G4S uniform hit him from behind with a length of timber spiked with nails.
Barati fell and was surrounded by up to 10 men, who kicked him in the head.
Two men, Joshua Kaluvia and Louie Efi, were convicted of his murder and jailed for 10 years by Papua New Guinea’s national court.
Evidence presented to the court stated Kaluvia twice struck Barati with the nail-spiked timber. Efi then dropped a rock on Barati’s head as he lay on the ground.
Barati died from catastrophic head injuries in the early hours of 18 February, four days after his 24th birthday.
The Barati family’s statement of claim shows that in the six months leading up to the violent riots, tensions had increased at the detention centre, and the number of detainees had increased tenfold – from 130 in July 2013 to 1,340 in February 2014.
The detention centre had been built to house 500 people.
It’s alleged the commonwealth knew or should have known there was “a high likelihood of tensions rising and violent protests occurring”, due to the overcrowding.
For its part, G4S had provided “numerous reports” about the “dangerously hostile situation and risk of violence” in the weeks leading up to the unrest, it’s claimed.
The statement of claim says the risk of violence in the centre “was reasonably foreseeable” to the Australian government and that “the commonwealth had the power to protect Reza Barati from a risk of physical attack”.
A Senate inquiry found the violence was “eminently foreseeable” and blamed the riots on delays in processing asylum seeker claims.
It recommended that the Barati family should be paid compensation but their lawyers said no compensation had yet been paid.
Head of Maurice Blackburn social justice practice, Jennifer Kanis, said “Reza Berati’s death should never have happened”.
“The Australian government and the security operator G4S failed in their duty of care to the people in offshore detention. It was their job to make sure staff were properly trained and the centre was properly equipped to deal with any outbreaks of violence.”
The legal director of the Human Rights Law Centre, Keren Adams, said Barati’s death had become a symbol of the brutality of the offshore detention system.
“Reza Barati’s murder has become a symbol of both the brutality and impunity of the offshore detention system. He came to this country seeking safety and was killed by the very people meant to be protecting him.
“His parents have been left ignored and unheard, traumatised by their son’s murder. These proceedings can’t bring back their son, but they can ensure that those ultimately responsible for his death are finally forced to account for their actions.”
The Department of Home Affairs said that as the matter was before the court it was not appropriate to comment.
G4S has also been contacted for a response.