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Lawyers decry treatment of asylum-seekers

Aug. 1, 2011 at 10:25 AM   |   Comments

CANBERRA, Australia, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- The Australian Lawyers Alliance has slammed government officials for giving police the authority to use stun guns on Malaysian asylum-seekers.

The alliance said the Australian Federal Police shouldn't have the "carte blanche" authority to user stun guns to force asylum-seekers to board planes back to detention centers in Malaysia, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Monday.

The group criticized Prime Minister Julia Gillard for her role in sending Malaysian refugees home.

Under an agreement with Malaysia, Australia can put asylum-seekers on a plane back home within 72 hours of their arrival on Christmas Island.

"It is a recipe for disaster," said Greg Barns, president of the 2,000-member lawyer group. "[Julia Gillard] is playing politics with human life."

Police said they were given the same "options" on lawbreakers on Christmas Island as they have on the mainland, including use of stun guns, batons, tear gas, pepper spray, handcuffs and bean-bag bullets.

"These weapons are really dangerous, Barns said. "Serious injury and death have resulted from the use of Tasers."

Barns accused Gillard of giving police officers permission to use "fatal weaponry on people who are traumatized."

"These are vulnerable people who, in many cases, have been brutalized by police in their own country," Barns said. "This is heavy-handed, jackbooted and unnecessary. She is playing politics with human life."

Gillard said she is merely doing her job.

"The Australian Federal Police can speak on operational matters, but we will do what is necessary to ensure that people who are taken to Malaysia under the agreement are taken," Gillard said.

Gillard said she warned the police against "getting carried away" in using force on the asylum-seekers.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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