Like many people, I think Schapelle Corby has had a raw deal. I also think comments along the way from Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty have not been helpful and the assistance provided by the Australian Government has been fairly lame.
However, I don’t see how public attacks or antagonism towards Indonesia about the trial are going to help her at all (or many innocent Indonesians). If anything, it may make things even harder for her if this report in the Jakarta Post (via Tim Blair) is any guide. We all like to think that legal systems and judges are not swayed by public and political controversy, but they are all made up of human beings and it is far from improbable that the excessive sentence may in part have been due to judges wanting to categorically show that they wouldn’t be swayed by public pressure.
I think the best things people can do are (a) make sure she has the funds to get the best possible legal team to run her appeal, (b) send her private personal messages of support (c) hassle the Australian Government to do all it can to assist and (d) shut up. Public attacks on Indonesia and its justice system about the case are not likely to increase the chances of a better outcome than the one Schapelle is already facing.
If people want to criticise the Indonesian Government about something, they could pressure them for their failure to stop the continuing human rights abuses in West Papua. These abuses have been going on well before Schapelle Corby’s case and are far greater in their severity and scale. I’m sure Australians don’t just get upset about mistreatment of other human beings when it involves other Australians and this is an area where public international pressure is needed and is not likely to be counter-productive.
For more detail, read this paper prepared for the Indonesia Human Rights Network last year. Among other things, it found that:
- Indonesian military and police forces have engaged in widespread violence and killings in West Papua. This paper documents a history of massacres of the West Papuan people, from the killing by aerial bombardment of several thousand Papuans in Jayawijaya in 1977 to the use of napalm and chemical weapons against villagers in 1981 to the massacre of 32 West Papuans in Wamena in October 2000.
- Indonesian authorities have also been responsible for numerous extrajudicial killings, including torture killings of detained prisoners, assassinations of West Papuan political, cultural, and village leaders, and brutal killings of civilian men, women, and children.
- Indonesian military and police force have subjected West Papuans to arbitrary and mass detention, torture, and other cruel and inhuman treatment or punishment. Detained Papuans have suffered electric shocks, beatings, pistol whipping, water torture, cigarette burns, and confinement in steel containers for months on end.
- Many West Papuans have been “disappeared” and likely tortured or killed, their family members subjected to psychological trauma and often severe economic deprivation as a result.
- Indonesian soldiers have also committed numerous acts of rape and sexual violence against West Papuan women, frequently in public and sometimes accompanied by mutilation or murder or both.
- At the same time, the Indonesian government’s systematic program of resource exploitation, destruction of Papuan resources and crops, compulsory and often uncompensated labour, transmigration, and forced relocation has caused pervasive environmental harm to the West Papuan region, undermined traditional subsistence practices and the social fabric and governance systems of indigenous communities, and led to widespread disease, malnutrition, and death among West Papuans.
- Mining and logging operations, undertaken in support of PT Freeport and other multinational corporations, have caused devastating environmental damage and the sickness or death of thousands of West Papuans. To facilitate mining operations and resettle transmigrants from elsewhere in Indonesia, the government has intentionally forced West Papuans from their traditional lands to unfamiliar locations, often leaving them without means of subsistence.
- The government has consistently refused to provide adequate medical care to the West Papuans and has discriminated against them in the provision of basic health care and reproductive services.
- Indonesian military forces have directly attacked West Papuans’ property and crops and have occasionally forced Papuans to work without compensation or below subsistence wages, under threat of arrest.
These sorts of actions are indefensible and pressure should be put on the Indonesian Government to address them. I’d encourage people to make some noise about this outrage, while providing their support for Schapelle behind the scenes.