Indonesian Youths in $103 Million Lawsuit against Australia

An undated photograph of Muhammad Rasid, one of the 115 Indonesian youths involved in a lawsuit against the Australian Government.


Jakarta, 11 Ramadan 1438/6 June 2017 (MINA) – A Jakarta court has called on the Australian government to provide more information in response to a $103 million lawsuit launched on behalf of Indonesian youths detained in Australia for alleged people smuggling, AAP reported on Monday (May 6).

The 115 youths – many of whom were left “traumatised” after being held in adult prisons between 2008 to 2012 – were detained under the now discredited method of using wrist x-rays to determine their age.

Many were poor, uneducated children recruited from remote fishing communities on the Indonesian coast, with no idea that what they were doing was illegal.

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Some, their lawyer Lisa Hiariej said did not know they were even going to Australia.

In a letter given to the court last week, a law firm reportedly representing the Australian government, called on the case to be dismissed, arguing Australia could not be sued in the Indonesian court system due to sovereign immunity.

On Tuesday, three judges from the Central Jakarta District Court said the letter did not clearly specify their status as a representative from the Australian government. They gave them three months to provide further information.


It turns out transporting people

Muhammad Rasid, one of the Indonesians represented in the case, was 15 when he was jailed at Sydney’s Silverwater prison for around one year after being detained off Christmas Island.

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“I don’t remember exactly when it was, maybe around 2008-2009,” he said of the trip from Jakarta to Christmas Island.

Accepting a job “transporting goods”, Muhammad, who is now 22, said he was surprised to find they were “suddenly transporting people”.

“I was driving the boat. It was a small boat, only 17-metres long but we had to face maybe 15-metre waves, just like a sea wall. The wave in the ocean was terrifying,” he told AAP.

After he was captured, Australian authorities X-rayed his wrist and told him he was born in 1988 – six years before his actual birth year.

“I told them I had been working hard since I was a kid. It’s impossible that my bone remains young with that kind of hard work.”

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“They said, ‘You’re lying, you’re making things up.”

A 2012 report by the Australian Human Rights Commission was scathing of the Australian government’s handling of more than 100 cases of young Indonesians suspected of people smuggling, saying it showed a complete disregard for the rights of children.

Colin Singer, the chairman of NGO Indonesia International Initiatives (TIGA-I), who worked to secure the release of many of the Indonesian children was in Jakarta court on Tuesday.

While a “medley of senior Australian government ministers profess their respect for Indonesia they treat Indonesian children disgracefully,” he said.

“Sadly, the prior Indonesian government and the present incumbents have provided negligible assistance and show little or no interest in their most vulnerable and in need citizens.” (T/RS5/RS1)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)