A Jakarta court has ordered the Australian government to enter mediation over a $103 million class action on behalf of 115 Indonesians who were jailed in adult prisons and detention centres while still juveniles.
Australia had not been represented in previous hearings in the Central Jakarta District Court because the Australian government insisted it was not subject to its jurisdiction.
Indonesian children were jailed alongside hardened adult criminals in Australian jails for people smuggling offences after the Australian Federal Police used a now completely discredited method of taking wrist X-rays to determine their age.
The 115 plaintiffs were detained for between three months and almost three years in jails and detention centres across Australia.
At the time the federal government had a policy of not prosecuting Indonesian boat crew who were children and sending them home.
The lawyer for the Australian Government, Togi Pangaribuan, said Australia would follow the legal process but this did not reduce the right of the Australian government to object to the court’s authority.
“We want to highlight that the Central Jakarta Court actually has no authority because as a sovereign state Australia has what is called state immunity,” Mr Togi said.
Mr Togi told the Central Jakarta District Court he had submitted a letter explaining why Indonesian courts had no authority over sovereign states such as Australia.
But Chief Judge Widodo said his objection should be presented at the session in which he had to provide his argument and would not be considered until then.
Lawyers for the Indonesian minors welcomed the mediation, saying it was possible Australia would change its mind and pay compensation.
“By coming today Australia has recognised the Indonesian legal system. As lawyers we are happy they came,” Lisa Hiariej said.
The plaintiffs are suing the Immigration Department, the Australian Federal Police, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General’s Department.
Ms Hiariej said according to Indonesian law representatives of each of the four defendants would need to attend the mediation session.