Minors tell of abuse in Australian prison
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Victims: Two teenagers speak at a press conference at the Human Rights Working Group’s offices in Jakarta on Thursday. The boys said that they were promised decent jobs on cargo ships when people traffickers smuggled them to Australia.(JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)
Two Indonesian minors who were detained for more than a year in an Australian prison, claimed that they were drugged and sexually harassed by fellow inmates before they were released in December.
The two minors, who were identified as Bambang, now 18, and Susilo, now 17, told on Thursday of their experiences while being kept inside the New South Wales’ Silverwater Prison, at the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) headquarters in Central Jakarta.
“I was afraid because I was being detained with adult criminals and drug abusers. I keep telling the authorities that I was 15 years old and that I didn’t want to stay with those criminals, but they wouldn’t listen,” said Susilo, who had donned a hoodie and covered his face with a a surgical mask.
According to one of Bambang and Susilo’s lawyers, Lisa Hiariej, the two boys had to deal with frequent sexual harassment and verbal abuses from fellow inmates during their time in the penitentiary.
“Several inmates took off their clothes in front of these kids, and showed their genitalia to them. The inmates made fun of these kids and gave them drugs that were concealed in newspapers,” Lisa said.
Lisa called on the Indonesian government to swiftly take action, and based on the experience of the two minors, quickly find a way to release other detained minors in a number of other Australian prisons.
“This problem is very serious and the Indonesian government needs to take direct action to release other innocent minors in Australia,” she added.
During a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard earlier this month, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on Australia to implement the extradition pact between the two countries that was signed in 1992 and to expedite the release of underage Indonesian fishermen who were victims of people smuggling and were currently incarcerated in Australian prisons.
“Up to 215 children have been released and there are still 54 more. We hope they can be released at once,” Yudhoyono said as quoted by Antara news agency.
The two underage boys spent months inside the jail.
Bambang, who was born in 1994, was found by Australian sailors on Christmas Island in December 2010. He was later arrested by the authorities on the allegation of trafficking asylum seekers to Australia.
He was transferred from one detention center to another and finally took a test to determine his real age at the Darwin Detention Center in March 2011. The result said that he was 18 years old.
As a result Bambang was transferred to Silverwater Prison in Sydney and remained there with adult inmates.
“I underwent a number of interrogation sessions and I kept on telling them that I was 17, but they did not believe me,” Bambang said.
Shortly before setting off for Australia in December 2010, Bambang was offered a job as part of a boat crew and was promised Rp 25 million (US$2,500) to ship fish from Pelabuhan Ratu in West Java to Sumatra.
Bambang claimed that he never knew his employer.
Susilo, who was only 15 years old when he was arrested in October 2010, said he was devastated after learning that the medical test showed that he was 18 years old.
“My hands are bigger and stronger than any adult’s because I’ve done hard work since I was very young,” Susilo told reporters.
Data from the HRWG showed that 408 Indonesian sailors, including 44 minors, were in Australian detention centers for charges of human trafficking. (nad)