Asia-Pacific

Australia ordered to reply to Indonesian children compensation case

The situation took eight hours to bring under control. Source: AAP

Australia has been ordered to reply to a multi-million compensation claim in a Jakarta court involving Indonesian children allegedly locked up in adult prisons.

The Australian government has been ordered to reply to a case involving Indonesian children allegedly locked up in Australian prisons, sparking hopes they will be forced to answer the case in a Jakarta court.

Australia has repeatedly maintained it is protected from the $103 million compensation claim because it has sovereign immunity, meaning its agencies are not subject to the jurisdiction of the Jakarta court.

But local lawyer Lisa Hiariej is pushing ahead with the suit on behalf of 115 Indonesians, who she says were children when they were held in Australian jails and detention centres between 2008 and 2011 for alleged people smuggling offences.

Last month the Australian government was ordered to enter mediation with Ms Hiariej but Central Jakarta District Court heard that the process had "failed".

Chief Judge Ibnu Basuki Widodo ordered lawyers for the Australian government to return with a reply to the claim on November 14, warning them not to take more than three weeks to prepare their defence.

"I feel that because the judges continue the matter, they feel there is a case to answer to," Ms Hiariej told AAP outside of court.

Muhammad Rasid, who was 15 when he was jailed at Sydney's Silverwater prison, said he was "certainly very happy" the matter was proceeding.

"I'm sorry I can't come to court on the 14th, I still need to work to earn money," the 23-year-old added.

The case has been launched against four Australian government agencies: the AFP, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General's Department.

It comes off the back of a 2012 Australian Human Rights Commission report into Indonesian youths held in Australian adult correctional facilities, which found the use of X-rays to determine age; a disregard for the children's testimony about their age; and inadequate steps to verify their date of births resulted in dozens of Indonesian children being locked up between 2008 to 2011.

"Our demand is not something that has come from thin air. It was based on something clear, factual, undeniable and it was from Australian itself, from Australian Human Rights Commission that there was a violation against these kids," lawyer Hendra Kusuma Jaya said.

Lawyers for the Australian government would not comment.

 

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