Indonesians imprisoned in Australia for alleged people smuggling push $103m class action

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Members of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) forensic unit
Members of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) forensic unit enter a garage with equipment at a house that was involved in pre-dawn raids in the western Sydney suburb of Guilford September 18, 2014. Reuters/David Gray

The Aussie government will not be represented before a Jakarta court hearing of a $103 million class action on behalf of Indonesian children locked up in Australia for alleged people smuggling. A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT ) revealed that Australia has requested for the court to dismiss the proceedings.

Indonesian youths were imprisoned alongside adult criminals in Australian jails after the Australian Federal Police utilised a now discredited method of taking wrist X-rays as a means of age assessment. The Australian Federal Police are now being sued by the plaintiffs.

But the DFAT spokesman told Fairfax Media that the government wrote to the Central Jakarta District Court to state its agencies were not subject to the court’s jurisdiction. "The Australian Government will not be represented at the proceedings,” the spokesperson said. The Immigration Department, the Attorney-General's Department and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions are also being sued.

Lisa Hiariej, the lawyer who represents the Indonesian juveniles, explained that the case was brought to an Indonesian court because of its nature as a human rights case. According to her, since the Aussie government decided to place Indonesian children into prisons intended for adults, state immunity and jurisdiction do not apply in this case.

"Besides, they are poor children - there is no way they can go to Australia to bring up their case,” Sydney Morning Herald quotes her as saying. Hiariej will obtain a copy of the letter from the Australian government in court on Tuesday. She said she will ask for a month to submit a reply.

Per a 2012 Australian Human Rights Commission Inquiry, the Australian Federal Police continued to utilise a wrist X-ray procedure as a way to determine age despite being aware of a material that called its reliance into question. The method was now totally stopped.

Ali Jasmin, who was arrested in 2009 when he was only 13 years old, told Fairfax Media that the officials declared he was an adult, but rejected the results several times. “I said, those machines of yours, they are not my mother,” he told the Australian Federal Police at that time, adding the machine did not know his real age.

Jasmin was freed in 2012. He said the Australian government never apologised to him. But he clarified he was angry not with anyone, but with the system. Jasmin added he was glad that the x-rays were no longer being used because no one else had to suffer like he did.

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