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Australia Says It Won’t Release Files On The Death Of A Young Man Sent To Nauru Because It’s Not Important To The Public

“The subject matter of the documents does not seem to have the character of public importance.”

This is Part 4 of a BuzzFeed News series.

Part 1: Australia Has Forgotten The 24-Year-Old Who Died In Detention. This Whistleblower Nurse Hasn't.

Part 2: A Young Gay Man Died Mysteriously In An Island Prison. His Family And Friends Want Answers.

Part 3: Australia Sent A Young Gay Man To Detention On A Tiny Island. He Died. Australia Says It’s The Island’s Problem.


The Australian government has blocked access to two internal reports it holds about the death of a refugee on Nauru, claiming their contents are not important to the public.

Rakib Khan was just 24 when he died in May 2016, two days after he presented to the island's hospital complaining of chest pains.

Supplied

Rakib Khan

A whistleblower nurse has told BuzzFeed News Khan's case was not taken seriously when he first arrived at the hospital. He was turned away without a thorough examination and told to take painkillers, the nurse said.

Khan's family does not know why he died, and calls for an inquest have been rejected or ignored.

BuzzFeed News submitted a public records request for “a copy of any investigation, review, report, or similar, written for or by the Department [of Home Affairs] about the death of Rakib Khan” in mid-January.

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In a decision issued on Tuesday, the department acknowledged it held two documents meeting that description, but declined to release either.

That decision was made partly because “the subject matter of the documents does not seem to have the character of public importance”.

“The matter has a very limited scope and, in my view, would be of interest to a very narrow section of the public,” the department’s decision-maker wrote in a letter to BuzzFeed News.

Parts of the documents were exempt from release because they would "adversely" affect Australia's working relations with Nauru, the department said.

Supplied: Department of Home Affairs.

The department also cited the protection of personal privacy of an unnamed third party in its decision to withhold the reports.

“The information relating to the third party is not well known and would only be known to a limited group of people with a business need to know,” the decision record states.

“As this information is only known to a limited group of people, the individual concerned is not generally known to be associated with the matters discussed in the document. The information is not available from publicly accessible sources.”

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Based on this, the third party does not appear to be Khan, but it remains unclear who it is.

The department said that it did not consider the information relating to the third party would be relevant to the “broader scope” of BuzzFeed News’ request.

Supplied: Department of Home Affairs.

Because the documents were not of public importance, and they provided no insight into spending of taxpayer money, the department rejected access entirely.

Khan fled his home country of Bangladesh because of persecution he faced for being gay. His mother has told BuzzFeed News of her anguish over her unanswered questions about the reasons for her son's death.

On Monday, department secretary Michael Pezzullo said that Australia has not conducted an independent inquiry into the death because it happened in a foreign jurisdiction.

BuzzFeed News has requested a review of the decision.

Hannah Ryan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Hannah Ryan at hannah.ryan@buzzfeed.com.

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