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Confidential settlement reached with family of murdered asylum seeker

The Australian government and private security firm G4S have settled a case with the family of an Iranian asylum seeker who was murdered during the 2014 Manus Island riots.

user iconLauren Croft 14 August 2023 Big Law

Image credit: flickr / DIAC Images

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Nine years after the death of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati, the Australian government and G4S have come to a confidential settlement with Mr Berati’s family, who sued both parties in 2021.

The asylum seeker was just 23 years old when he was brutally beaten to death by guards and other local contractors in a violent rampage at the Manus Island Detention Centre, which also left 77 other asylum seekers injured.

He arrived in Australia seeking safety but was instead transferred to the Manus Island Detention Centre, where he was beaten to death by private security guards and government contractors. Later that same year, a 2014 Senate committee recommended that Mr Berati’s family receive compensation, but little came of it.

 
 

In 2021, Mr Berati’s parents Ita Torab Berati and Farideh Baralak sued G4S and the Australian government for the mental harm suffered as a result of their son’s murder, represented by Maurice Blackburn and the Human Rights Law Centre.

Following this, at least 20 former Manus Island guards brought legal action against the government and G4S for trauma sustained from witnessing the violence, with payouts for these settlements reportedly reaching tens of millions of dollars.

“We still feel the pain of Reza’s absence every single day. Reza came to Australia seeking safety. Then he was murdered in a detention centre where he should have been kept safe. He had done nothing wrong. We hope that no other parent has to go through this pain and that nothing like this is allowed to happen ever again,” Mrs Baralak and Mr Berati said.

“While there is nothing that will bring our Reza back or lessen the pain of his loss, we are glad that this case is over. We are satisfied that we fought for justice for Reza and are relieved now that we can try to move on with our lives.”

According to Maurice Blackburn, recent reports have revealed alleged corruption at the heart of offshore detention, with secret multimillion-dollar payments by Australian government contractors to politicians in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

This, principal lawyer and head of the Maurice Blackburn social justice practice Jennifer Kanis said, only adds to the injustices asylum seekers face in offshore detention.

“We are pleased that after so many years, Reza’s parents have achieved some justice over their son’s death. While this settlement is an important step, they will forever grieve his absence. We must not forget that at the heart of this legal case is the story of a family who lost their child and brother in the most brutal of circumstances,” she said.

“The injustices experienced by Reza and other asylum seekers detained offshore underscore the importance of establishing a national charter of human rights to ensure that all people in Australia’s care are treated with humanity and dignity.”

In June, the last refugees held on Nauru were evacuated to Australia after 10 years. Around 75 people are still being held in Papua New Guinea and need urgent evacuation, added Human Rights Law Centre acting legal director Freya Dinshaw.

“Reza Berati’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. We were honoured to work with Mrs Baralak and Mr Berati to help deliver this small measure of justice,” she said.

“Offshore processing has inflicted untold suffering upon people merely asking for safety while private security operators made multimillion-dollar profits. The Albanese government must urgently evacuate the 75 people still stranded in PNG, and end the harmful policy of offshore detention once and for all.”