Corby case spotlights confused attitude to human rights

The fallout from the Schapelle Corby case is a reminder that Australia ___cannot have it both ways___ when it comes to human rights.

This is the telling observation of Professor Colin Brown (pictured), an adjunct member of the Griffith Asia Institute.

“In Indonesia, Australia’s reputation on human rights issues is a decidedly mixed one,” Professor Brown said.

“We are seen to protest loudly when our citizens are jailed in Indonesia, following due Indonesian legal process.

“However, as most Indonesians now know, for years Indonesian children were held in adult prisons in Australia, in clear violation of Australian law as well as Australia’s international obligations.”

Speculation soared yesterday that greater leniency would be shown to Indonesian juveniles arrested and jailed in Australia for people smuggling, as part of a deal linked to the imminent release of Corby.

Professor Brown, who is based in Indonesia and teaches at Parahyangan University in Bandung, highlighted the case of an Australian boy held in Bali last year on a charge of possession of marijuana.

“Both the then Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister involved themselves personally and publicly in the case.

“We urge the commutation of death sentences on Australians convicted of drug smuggling in Indonesia. But we call for the execution of those convicted of terrorism offences.

“We cannot have it both ways. If we are not consistent in our application of human rights principles in Australia, we can hardly criticise Indonesia if it is not consistent either.”

Professor Brown said the decision by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to approve a five-year cut to Corby’s 20-year sentence was not likely to gather favour for his Partai Demokrat party from an increasingly conservative electorate in Indonesia.

“Whether this presidential decision means anything for other Australians in Indonesian jails on drugs charges is unclear.

“If there is little public sympathy evident for Corby, there is virtually none for those convicted of more serious drug offences.

“Already he has been criticised for even considering Corby’s clemency appeal.”