Indonesia should be able to exercise its sovereign right to law enforcement without a public outcry by neighbouring states, according to cross-border policing expert Dr Saskia Hufnagel.

Dr Hufnagel from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security at Griffith University said last week’s arrest of a 14-year-old Australian boy should come as no surprise.

“It is important, however, to ensure the boy is held under conditions that respect the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and that Indonesia’s international human rights norms are respected,” she said.

“But Australians who travel to neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, should be aware from recent prominent cases such as Schapelle Corby and the Bali Nine that they deal with drug offences differently to Australia,” she said.

“However, this does not deter people from committing drug offences in these jurisdictions and when caught, feigning surprise at the consequences.

“In the past decade there have been numerous cases capturing media attention which should make it clear that committing even minor drug offences in Indonesia has much harsher consequences than in Australia.”

She said while human rights violations should not be overlooked they did not seem to be the main issue in this case.

“Wherever countries in a region have different legal systems, laws and policies, problems are going to arise. In the current case problems also include the treatment of juvenile offenders and related trial rights.

“But rather than criticising the Indonesian system, it would be more beneficial to discuss how these cases should be dealt with generally and create a common understanding for Australian versus Indonesian drug policies, law enforcement priorities and the legal and justice systems.”

Dr Hufnagel said such problems were not contained to the Asia Pacific region, citing European states bordering the Netherlands which had significantly different legal systems, more relaxed drug laws and drug law enforcement policies.

“An important step in dealing with the challenges in the European region has been to create dialogue and understanding between the countries.

“But, understanding of different laws such as drug offences will only happen if neighbouring states enter into dialogue to lead to an accepted solution.”

Dr Hufnagel is a Research Fellow at the Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security. She completed her PhD at ANU and taught courses in the field of comparative, criminal and EU law at the ANU College of Law and the ANU Centre for European Studies.