Saturday, July 21, 2012

Indonesia Approaches Alleged Teen Abuse in Australian Prison With Caution

The Indonesian government has decided to play it cool regarding reports of the alleged sexual harassment of two Indonesian teenagers in an Australian prison, despite the outcry of rights groups and Australian media scrutiny of the case.

Susilo and Bambang, the names they were given at a press conference on Thursday, were 15 and 17 when Australian authorities put them in Sydney’s Silverwater prison for alleged people smuggling.

(The Jakarta Globe
previously reported on the boys' experiences in detention under the pseudonyms Didi and Putra.)

They said they conveyed their ages at the time they were taken into custody, but authorities used wrist X-rays to claim the boys were adults and imprisoned them with adult criminals and drug users.

The boys, now 17 and 18, told journalists that they were strip-searched and sexually humiliated, and witnessed drug use in Silverwater prison, as quoted by Australia’s ABC News. They were only acquitted in December last year after their Australian lawyers presented evidence collected from their villages, including birth certificates and testimonies from village chiefs.

In response to the report, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene said the Indonesian government would not take any specific action on the alleged harassment unless it was requested to do so.

“This is an individual case. The government may provide assistance as long as it is within the scope of our consulary authority. But individuals involved should [ask for the consulary assistance] in individual cases like this,” Tene told the Jakarta Globe over the phone on Saturday.

“The government will facilitate the needs of our citizens … and at the same time continue to fix the system so as to prevent these kind of incidents from recurring in the future,” he added.

ABC News reported that the two boys took more than an hour to tell the press in Jakarta their stories, with one of them breaking down multiple times as they gave a blow-by-blow description of their ordeal.

Susilo was quoted as saying that he had been placed with the prison’s mentally ill patients. He was then moved into rooms with men who took drugs in the cell he was in. He said after he complained about the drug use to prison officials, he was moved to another cell.

“They were sexually humiliated. When they were strip-searched they were made fun of and there was a lot of that sort of thing that went on; men showing themselves to the boys in the shower and making comments. They said they were quite intimidated and threatened,” ABC News reported.

Tene said there should be no worries about similar incidents going forward, as the Indonesian and Australian governments had forged agreements on many aspects related to handling purported Indonesian minors in Australian prisons.

“The Australian government no longer uses mere wrist X-rays now; they also take into consideration documents that the Indonesian government provides to determine the ages of Indonesian ship crew members believed to be minors,” Tene said.

He added that the Indonesian government had managed to bring home more and more Indonesian minors detained in Australia, leaving only 36 purported minors there at present.

ABC News reported that a spokesman for Australia’s Immigration Department said because the minors were crew and not seeking asylum, their cases were handed over to the Australian Federal Police. The department would not reveal how long the two Indonesians were held in immigration detention, saying it does not discuss individual cases.

Following up, ABC News said the Australian Federal Police claimed they had nothing to do with it either and referred all matters to the Attorney-General. In a statement, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the allegations were difficult to verify but would be thoroughly investigated by New South Wales corrections authorities.

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