The head of an Australian inquiry into the abuse of aboriginal teens in a detention center in the Northern Territory has resigned before being replaced by an aboriginal leader.
Brian Martin, who was a former judge in the Northern Territory, announced his resignation on Monday, saying he lacked the confidence of the indigenous community.
“I’m not the only person who can conduct this commission effectively and competently and it is critical that whoever is appointed has the confidence of those who are vitally concerned with this matter,” he added.
This photo shows former head of the royal commission into abuses in the Northern Territory’s juvenile justice system, Brian Martin (L), with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and George Brandis on July 28, 2016.
Martin said he did not perceive “that there is any problem with bias, either actual or perception of bias, but others do.”
Attorney-General George Brandis stressed that Martin’s resignation “does not imply that a royal commission conducted by him would have been tainted by either real or apprehended bias.”
The government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered the investigation into the treatment of the aboriginal teens which came into the limelight only last Monday.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) aired footage showing aboriginal youths being abused by prison guards in the Don Dale Youth Detention Center in Northern Territory between 2010 and 2014.
The video showed the youths being stripped naked by the guards at the facility, thrown by the neck into a cell and held for long periods in solitary confinement.
According to Brandis, two royal commissioners will now head the inquiry.
A photo grabbed from footage broadcast by Australia’s ABC on July 28, 2016.
One of them is indigenous leader Mick Gooda, who will co-chair the inquiry with former Supreme Court of Queensland justice Margaret White, said Brandis.
The aboriginal leaders had formerly said they would not cooperate with the investigation unless they were represented on the commission. They also demanded that the inquiry determine whether race was a factor in the abuse.
Aborigines comprise three percent of Australia’s population, while they make up 27 percent of the prison population and 94 percent of teen inmates in the Northern Territory.
The communities are considered the most disadvantaged in Australia, suffering higher rates of imprisonment, unemployment, illness and child mortality.
On Saturday, hundreds of people rallied in major cities across Australia, criticizing the government’s response to the abuse.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has also called on the government to compensate the victims.