This is Part three in a blog post series highlighting information that has been disclosed thanks to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests on Alaveteli sites across the world. Here are part one and part two.
In this edition, we’re highlighting stories from Australian site RightToKnow, European Union-wide AsktheEU and Rwandan site Sobanukirwa.
Australian police use banned restraint technique on asylum seekers
Detention Logs is a project that publishes data, documents and investigations that reveal information on conditions and events inside Australia’s immigration detention network.
As part of the project, Detention Logs used Alaveteli site RightToKnow to ask the Australian Department of Immigration to disclose incident reports from detention facilities.
One such incident report revealed that the Department of Immigration approved the use of a controversial body lock technique on an asylum seeker.
The incident report describes the restraint as follows:
“The seat belt was fastened. The client and the escort staff were the first passengers to board the plane. As the client continued screaming and resisting, DIAC staff issued instruction to the escort staff to ‘lock the client down’ by pushing her chest towards her knees. However, the client still continued screaming loudly and attracting attention of the cabin crew.”
According to New Matilda and Detention Logs, the account of the restraint strongly resembles the “seated double embrace” technique banned by police in Victoria and New South Wales in Australia, and some government agencies in the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom Ministry of Justice banned this technique in juvenile detention facilities, following the death of 15-year-old Gareth Myatt in 2004.
Why the EU’s taking its time on restricting harmful chemicals
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals that are present in everyday products – from plastics and cosmetics to pesticides. Because of their ability to interact with the hormonal (endocrine) systems of living organisms, they are suspected of having serious health and environmental impacts.
The European Union is supposed to regulate EDCs, in order to protect citizens from harmful effects. Both the EU’s 2009 pesticide regulation and the European chemicals package (REACH) demand that the EU take action on these chemicals.
However, several years later, the European Commission is still no closer to taking concrete action.
FOI requests made on AsktheEU have led to the disclosure of correspondence between the European Commission and various stakeholders regarding proposed EU legislation on the restriction of EDCs.
The documents have helped journalist Stéphane Horel and research and campaigning group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) to piece together why the process has stalled, and what has been said behind closed Commission doors.
To communicate their findings, they produced a book and documentary, which explains how corporations, and even actors within the Commission, are stalling the process of this key public health and environment legislation.
Now Rwandans can find out when their parliament is in session
The Rwandan parliament now publish the Chamber of Deputies’ schedule of debates/activities for each day on the homepage of their official website (under ‘Today in Parliament’).
This follows an FOI request on Rwandan Alaveteli site Sobanukirwa, which urges the parliament to do just that. The Sobanukirwa team don’t know for sure if their request influenced parliament’s decision to publish this information, but we are pretty sure it had an impact.
The Australian and EU examples above show the power of making a lot of FOI requests, across authorities, and then grouping them together to create/support a project or investigation about a wider issue of public concern.
The Rwandan example shows that perhaps, just perhaps, a single request can cause a big impact.
So, what do you want to investigate? What have you always wanted to know? Start your own investigation to unearth truths that may just surprise you, and use an Alaveteli site to help you.
If you know of any interesting requests made on Alaveteli sites (or other online FOI portals) that you’d like featured in this blog post series, then please do get in touch.
This was part three in the ‘Stories of Alaveteli’ series. See part four here.
Image: Jenny Lee Silver, (CC).