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Detained Indonesian Minors Seek Compensation

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Download Human rights lawyers say Canberra could be facing a string of compensation claims from Indonesian minors who've been unlawfully detained in Australia.

The first civil compensation suit has been filed on behalf of two Indonesian children who were locked up in an adult jail while awaiting trial on people smuggling charges.

From Radio Australia, Kesha West has more.

Last February a wooden fishing boat was intercepted off Ashmore Reef, one of the many carrying asylum seekers to Australia.

Among the crew were two Indonesian boys, one just 14 years old, the other 15.

Indonesia's consul general in Sydney Gary Jusuf says they had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

“They were forced by the captain of the boat to bring the asylum seekers without them knowing. And they were forced but then the captain ran away.”

The two boys who grew up as brothers are now back at home in South East Sulawesi.

In Australia they spent 10 months in detention - six months of that in adult facilities including Sydney's Silverwater prison.

Their lawyer Peter O'Brien says they should never have been held in an adult jail. Now he’s filed a civil compensation suit on their behalf.

“No child should be held in an adult jail and then expected to simply wear an apology with a qualification that things have changed in the way in which they are doing it now.”

The Indonesian boys were treated as adults based solely on wrist x-ray evidence used by the AFP that had been discredited and was known to be unreliable.

The Department of Immigration had earlier assessed them as juveniles. Their solicitor is Rebecca Dunlop.

“Both of these young boys provided contact details to Australian authorities. But it would seem that the AFP didn't make a single phone call back to the village in Indonesia to ascertain how old they were.���

More than 200 Indonesians claiming to be minors were detained in Australia between September 2008 and January this year.

The Australian Human Rights Centre's Bassina Farbenblum says the Government could face many more compensation claims.

“Under Australia's international obligations it's required to actually compensate these children for unlawful detention. It's also required under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure their physical and psychological recovery.”

Indonesia's foreign minister Marty Natalegawa says Jakarta is watching.

“We should let the legal process get under way in Australia. Obviously this will be an important test case about the matter but we respect fully the Australian legal process and we'll follow it very closely as well.”

The Attorney-General declined to be interviewed on the compensation claim.


Last Updated ( Saturday, 15 September 2012 13:34 )  

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