Leaked files catalog abuse in Australian detention center on Nauru

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nauru child detainees pkg watson amanpour _00033417

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Story highlights

  • Amnesty accuses Australian government of "mass cover-up" of abuse on Nauru
  • 2,000 leaked case reports reveal catalog of abuse, according to the Guardian

(CNN)Amnesty International has accused the Australian government of a "mass cover-up" after more than 2,000 case reports were leaked detailing abuse on the Pacific island of Nauru.

Published by the Guardian, the documents were reportedly written by guards, caseworkers and teachers working at the Australian immigration center on the tiny island between May 2013 and October 2015.
    They detail a devastating catalog of self-harm attempts, violent altercations, hunger strikes and incidents of sexual assault and child abuse, according to the newspaper.
    The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection sent CNN a statement saying that many of the reported incidents were unconfirmed allegations, and the files themselves are evidence of the "robustness" of reporting procedures. It also said that "many of the incidents are historical in nature."
    It said it's "seeking urgent advice from its service providers today to confirm all of these matters have been previously and appropriately reported to it, consistent with the policies and procedures covering such matters."

    Devastating detail

    According to the Guardian, a large number of the reports involve children. Incidents range from children allegedly being hit by officers to distressing accounts of children exhibiting traumatized behavior.
    In one report from February 2015, a girl says that she has been threatened by a male asylum seeker, indicating on a paper doll that he "cut her from under."
    Another report from September 2014 alleges officers laughed at another girl who had sewn her lips together.
    The files also catalog a staggering number of suicide threats and incidences of self-harm.
    Once account from March 2015 describes a woman repeatedly beating her own head against a shower cubicle wall. Another from the same month details a man swallowing "two or three rocks."
    In June 2015, in a logged event relating to chemical poisoning, a student reportedly runs out of the classroom with a bottle of cleaning fluid, managing to swallow a cup before it is knocked out of his hands.
    The files are available to view, in full, here. They contain details some readers may find distressing.

    End of Government denials?

    While CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the documents, the allegations closely align with those made recently by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
    In a report released last week based on extensive interviews, the human rights groups documented tales of fear, anger and despair.
    Australian officials told CNN at the time that they strongly denied many of the findings, and had not been contacted about the allegations. But according to Amnesty International's Senior Director for Research, Anna Neistat, Wednesday's leaks are too damning for the government to ignore.
    "The exposure of just how appalling the conditions on Nauru are -- and the impact of this on refugees -- has to end the government of Australia's denials," she said in a statement.
    "They've repeatedly said this kind of abuse has not been going on. They've been lying," she says.
    A refugee on Nauru shows a self inflicted injury to Amnesty in July, telling them he tried to kill himself
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    Human rights groups have once again called on the Turnbull administration to rethink its approach to resettling refugees and asylum seekers.
    "There is undeniable, cumulative evidence that suggests that asylum seeker and refugee children are not safe under existing arrangements on Nauru," said Nicole Breeze, Director of Policy and Advocacy, UNICEF Australia, in a statement.
    "The Australian government must take immediate action for children and their families to prevent further harm," she said.
    Human Rights Watch called on Australia to close operations on Nauru. "It should move immediately to settle refugees in Australia or an appropriate third country," the group said. "And it should begin a reckoning for the abuses its agents committed and its officials condoned."

    'A robust reporting system'

    The Nauru government operates the detention center with support from Australia and private contractors.
    In response to the report, Broadspectrum, the private company responsible for various services at the detention center, told CNN that it maintains a "robust incident reporting system," and takes all allegations "extremely seriously."
    "The care and well-being of asylum seekers is paramount in our processes and actions," said Executive General Manager, Chris Gordon, in a statement. "We have been open and transparent about our work at the RPC [Regional Processing Center], noting that the environment at the center can be complex and challenging."
    In an email to CNN, Wilson Security, also named in the Guardian report, said they were unable to respond to questions and referred all inquiries to the Department of Immigration.

    Humanitarian?

    Since 2012, refugees arriving in Australia by boat have been transferred to offshore centers in small pacific nations such as Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island to make it clear they would not be settling in Australia.
    Members of the environmental group Greenpeace hold up a sign that reads "#LET THEM STAY" in front of the Opera House in Sydney on February 14, 2016.  An Australian hospital in Brisbane has refused to send an asylum-seeker baby back to detention in Nauru as momentum builds across the country against offshore Pacific camps for used by the Australia government for processing refugees who try to get to Australia. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS / AFP / PETER PARKS        (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
    Members of the environmental group Greenpeace hold up a sign that reads "#LET THEM STAY" in front of the Opera House in Sydney on February 14, 2016.  An Australian hospital in Brisbane has refused to send an asylum-seeker baby back to detention in Nauru as momentum builds across the country against offshore Pacific camps for used by the Australia government for processing refugees who try to get to Australia. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS / AFP / PETER PARKS        (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

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