Reza Barati was a 23-year-old asylum seeker who was killed during rioting at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre (MIRPC), Papua New Guinea, on 17 February 2014. An Iranian Kurd, he had arrived in Australia on 24 July 2013 – just five days after the PNG solution was announced – and was sent to Manus Island in August.
It was first reported that the cause of death was "severe head trauma", with the Cornall Review later concluding that the actual cause was cardiac arrest as a consequence of "severe brain injury", caused by being beaten by several assailants. Two Manusian men were convicted of murder in 2016, but others involved, said to be expats, have never been brought to justice.
Reza was born in a small town called Lomar in Ilam Province, part of the Kurdistan region of Iran, in 1988. He studied architecture at university and was determined to finish his studies when resettled. Due to his kind nature and large build, his friends would call him “the gentle giant”.
Government and public reaction in Australia
Then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said after the incident that Barati's body would be moved to Port Moresby, where an autopsy would be held before the government would assist with repatriation to Iran, as requested by his family.
At least 15,000 people came out to attend 600 "snap protests" all over Australia following the news of his death. Over 4,000 Australians came together in Sydney Town Hall on 23 February 2014 to hold a candlelight vigil in memory of Barati.
Cornall Review and Senate enquiry
Robert Cornall, a lawyer and former Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department, was appointed in February 2014 to conduct 'a review into the circumstances surrounding the Manus Island disturbances' leading up to Reza Barati's death with the primary focus on management of security at the centre.
The report was released in late May 2014. In the report, Cornall described Barati as “a very gentle man” who was not involved in the unrest. The report concluded that “Mr Barati suffered a severe brain injury caused by a brutal beating by several assailants and died a few hours later.”
In December 2014, an Australian Senate inquiry into the three days of rioting at the centre found the Australian government had failed in its duty to protect asylum seekers and that the riots were caused by a failure to process asylum claims and also foreseeable.
Arrests and trial
In July 2014 a security guard and later a Salvation Army worker, both Papua-New Guinean, were arrested. Both men were charged with murder. Their trial at Manus Island court was due to start on 2 March 2015. Three more suspects were being sought, two of whom were Australian expatriate security guards who as of 11 February 2019[update] had still not been charged.
On 19 March 2016, the two 29-year-old Papuan men, Louie Efi and Joshua Kaluvia, were convicted in the PNG supreme court and each sentenced to 10 years jail for Reza Barati's murder. Kaluvia had hit Barati with a piece of timber spiked with nails and Efi had dropped a rock on his head. Five years of the sentences were suspended, and credit was given for time served.
In sentencing, Justice Nicholas Kirriwom said they had received shorter prison terms because others not yet charged were also involved in killing Barati, and that the prosecution's case relied on the evidence of one main witness. This witness had reported that a large group of people including New Zealand and Australian guards were involved in attacking Barati. Both accused pleaded not guilty and maintained their innocence throughout, claiming to have been set up. The apparent exemption from justice of expatriates working on Manus had long been alleged by Manusians, suggesting double standards of justice.
Eyewitness account in film
Homage to Barati 4 years on
In an opinion piece written for The Guardian in February 2018, Behrouz Boochani writes an account of the riots and the unfairness of the events following, including the trial. Questions are still left unanswered four years later. He writes of how the main witness in the trial has been traumatised, and about Barati as a person, the "gentle giant and best friend". The piece ends with a poem, Our Mothers, a poem for Reza.
- Wroe, David (August 19, 2014). "Reza Barati: Two men arrested over death of asylum seeker at PNG detention centre". Retrieved 26 August 2015.
- "Manus violence: dead asylum seeker named as Iranian Reza Barati, 23", The Guardian 21 February 2014
- Cochrane, Liam (22 August 2014). "Reza Barati: Salvation Army suspect in Manus Island riot murder tried to fake own death to evade capture, police say". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Retrieved 11 April 2015.
- Cornell, Robert (23 May 2014). "Review into the Events of 16 - 18 February 2014 at the Manus Island Regional Centre" (PDF-6 MB). Department of Immigration and Border Protection. pp. 63–66. section–8.1. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
...His heart rate dropped ... leading to his death from a cardiac arrest ... a classic secondary response to raised intercranial pressure secondary to severe brain injury. - Doctor treating Reza Barati
- Boochani, Behrouz. "Four years after Reza Barati's death, we still have no justice". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 12 July 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2019. Poem translated by Omid Tofighian.
- Ireland, Judith (21 February 2014). "Iranian asylum seeker killed on Manus Island named Reza Barati". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
- "Australians Hold Protests in Memory of Slain Iranian Reza Barati; Cambodia Considers Accepting Asylum Seekers", International Business Times, 24 February 2014
- "Candlelight vigils held for slain asylum seeker Reza Berati who died on Manus Island", ABC News, 24 February 2014
- Farrell, Paul (21 February 2014), "Manus Island inquiry will be led by Robert Cornall, says Scott Morrison", The Guardian, archived from the original on 28 February 2014
- Terms of Reference Review into the events of 16-18 February 2014 at the Manus Regional Processing Centre, Canberra: Department Immigration and Border Protection, 27 February 2014, archived from the original on 28 February 2014
- Farrell, Paul (27 February 2014). "Consultant investigating Manus Island unrest insists he is independent". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 28 February 2014.
- Independent Reviews into Incidents at Offshore Regional Processing Centres: Review into the events of 16-18 February 2014 at the Manus Regional Processing Centre, Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Accessed 26 May 2014
- "Morrison releases Manus Island riot report". SBS World News Radio. Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). 27 May 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
Berati ... was struck from behind .... also kicked and had a rock dropped on his head, before dying of heart failure while being treated by medical staff.
- Doherty, Ben; Davidson, Helen (19 April 2016). "Reza Barati: men convicted of asylum seeker's murder to be free in less than four years". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 February 2019. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
- Government of Australia. Senate. Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee (December 2014). "Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014" (PDF). pp. 1–201. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
- Cochrane, Liam (27 February 2015). "Reza Barati: Trial of two men accused of killing asylum seeker on Manus Island to start next week". ABC News. Australia: ABC. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
- Boochani, Behrouz (17 February 2018). "Four years after Reza Barati's death, we still have no justice". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 12 July 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
- Eric Tlozek (19 April 2016). "Reza Barati death: Two men jailed over 2014 murder of asylum seeker at Manus Island detention centre". ABC News. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
- Zable, Arnold (17 October 2017). "From Manus to London: how two strangers made a landmark movie together". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 10 February 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2019.