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Australia, Aboriginal deaths in custody: 4 in a few days

Rome: A 37-year-old man is the fourth Aboriginal man to die in custody in less than three weeks in Australia, during a police chase in the mining town of Broken Hill, 1,150 kilometers from Sydney. According to a police report, Anzac Sullivan, of the Brakengi tribe, died after suffering a “medical accident” on 18 March, and officers attempted to revive him unsuccessfully. This was reported by the Australian newspaper. The death of four indigenous people in police custody or in prison over a period of 16 days is a matter of concern that coincides with the 30th anniversary of the National Commission for the Investigation of Indigenous Deaths “in custody”.

On March 2, a man aged about 30 died in a Sydney prison hospital, on March 5 a woman was in a cell in another prison in Sydney, and two days later a man died in a prison near Melbourne. Anzac Sullivan’s death in a police chase is considered a “death in custody” by law although he was not under arrest at the time. “The killing of four people in the space of just two weeks is a strong red flag that there is a serious flaw in the police and prison systems in Australia,” said Sarah Kerslin of Sydney’s Indigenous Peoples Legal Service, which represents the Sullivans. “We call for an urgent investigation into the death of Anzac Sullivan by an independent agency, and for the investigation to be transparent and accountable to his family and the Aboriginal community on Broken Hill.” The excessive presence of indigenous people in police custody and detention means that indigenous people have a much greater chance of death in prison or arrest than the rest of the population. In 1991, the National Commission to Investigate Indigenous Deaths in custody over a 10-year period and made 339 recommendations, only two-thirds of which were fully implemented.

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