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Indonesian children need stronger legal protection

Publication Date : 25-07-2012

 

Indonesia's Commission for Child Protection (Komnas PA) has called on the government to immediately implement the children protection law, which would provide full protection for juvenile delinquents.

"Until the bill is fully implemented, juvenile criminals will be treated as adult inmates. They will still suffer from harassment and violence inside the prisons," Komnas PA chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait told The Jakarta Post.

The House of Representatives' Commission III overseeing law and human rights endorsed the bill on juvenile criminal offenders earlier this month.

The new law carries provisions on a range of issues including the procedures for arresting and incarcerating underage criminals. According to the law, minors aged between 14 and 18 years old can be detained only if they commit a crime that carries a penalty of more than seven years in prison.

Drafted by the government in April 2011, the law also allows investigators, attorneys and judges to seek out-of-court settlements, with the victims' approval, for any crimes committed by minors that carry a prison sentence of less than seven years.

If President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono fails to sign the bill within 30 days of its endorsement, it will take effect automatically.

Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin said that it would take at least five years for the government to build the necessary legal infrastructure to implement the bill.

Data from Komnas PA said that 788 minors stood trial for various offenses ranging from petty theft, drug abuse and gambling, in the first semester of 2012.

Sirait said that juvenile delinquents were mostly victims of their own environments, pointing out that social problems like poverty and drug addiction led children to commit crimes.

"Some of them committed a crime only to survive and meet their basic needs. They are living in an environment where inequality prevails and they get little attention from their parents," Sirait said.

According to the commission, 774 of the total 788 minors came from low-income families and 420 of them were school dropouts. Only 14 minors come from middle- or upper-class families.

The commission also said that the offenders included 191 senior high school graduates, 113 junior high school graduates and seven individuals who only had an elementary school education.

Data from the commission showed that 312 minors were involved in petty theft, 128 in assault, 119 in assault with a weapon, 79 in drug abuse, 37 in gambling, 24 in sexual harassment, six in murder and two in kidnapping, with the remainder involved in a variety of other offenses.

Sirait said that the community played a significant role in curbing juvenile crime.

"We have to be more socially active and pay more attention to our surroundings, particularly to those who live in poverty, where most of criminals come from," he said.

Data from the government-sanctioned Indonesian Commission for Child Protection (KPAI) said that around 7,000 children were brought to court in the nation, of which around 80 per cent were eventually convicted and incarcerated.

There are currently upwards of 6,000 children in detention in the nation's prisons, according to the government. Most share cells with adult inmates.

Meanwhile, Coordinating People's Welfare Minister Agung Laksono said yesterday that the government had decided to postpone the celebration of National Children's Day from July 23 to after the Idul Fitri holiday.

He denied suggestions that the event was delayed because President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono declined to attend.

"We just want children to focus on their Ramadhan rituals," he said.

 

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