A huge class action against the federal government on behalf of 1905 Manus Island detainees will begin this week, alleging serious injuries sustained and a claim of false imprisonment.
The historic legal action, launched by law firm Slater and Gordon, is said to be the largest immigration detention trial ever in Australia. To be held in the Supreme Court of Victoria, the entire trial will be live streamed online, and will reportedly be available to those asylum seekers and refugees still on Manus Island (you can view the stream on the court's website here).
The trial was originally due to begin on Monday, has been delayed until 10.30am on Wednesday.
"This is one of the most factually and logistically complex class actions in recent times," Slater and Gordon practice group leader Rory Walsh said in February. The law firm expects the case to run for up to seven months.
The lead plaintiff in the case is Iranian man Majid Kamasaee, who was detained in the Manus facility for several years, but the class action also includes 1905 men who were held at the centre between November 2012 and December 2014.
The case alleges that the Commonwealth of Australia, plus service providers G4S and Broadspectrum, provided conditions inside the Manus centre which led to detainees suffering "serious physical and psychological injuries". An additional claim for false imprisonment was added to the action after Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court ruled that detaining asylum seekers on Manus breached the country's constitution.
"The lead plaintiff alleges the Commonwealth was in effective control of the Manus Island Detention Centre at all relevant times, and thereby owed a duty of care to the detainees being held there. He similarly alleges the false imprisonment of the detainees was done by the Commonwealth and its service providers," Slater and Gordon said in a statement.
The case has been building for nearly three years, and will include more than 200,000 documents, 104 witness outlines and 28 expert reports.
"This case will be the largest and most forensic public examination of the events and conditions at the Manus Island centre and reflects the unquestionable importance of access to justice in the Australian legal system," the statement continues.
"The extraordinary secrecy surrounding the Manus Island detention centre has meant that, for too long, the detainees' experiences have been a case of 'out of sight, out of mind'." The remote location of the centre, the difficulties involved in media access and extensive restrictions on workers speaking out publicly have all significantly complicated the legal journey.
"The group members in this case have had to endure an extremely difficult burden for an extraordinary length of time but we are confident that, come May 2017, their stories will be heard in way that, so far, has not been possible."
The trial will be live-streamed here.
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