Indonesia: Lawyer for Dead Fishermen Seeks Human Trafficking Probe

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china-indonesia.jpg Indonesia Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi participates in an Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers meeting in Bangkok, June 22, 2019.

A lawyer for Indonesians who alleged they had worked in slave-like conditions aboard Chinese fishing boats called Monday for companies that recruited and employed them to be prosecuted for human trafficking and bondage.

Last week, the Foreign Ministry in Jakarta summoned the Chinese ambassador over the deaths of four Indonesians and the treatment of others who allegedly worked in harsh conditions aboard Chinese fishing boats since December 2019.

“What was experienced by the ship crew members constitutes human trafficking, starting from recruitment, their dispatch, abuse and bondage,” said Pahrur Dalimunthe, the attorney for the fishermen.

“Those involved, including the companies that sent them and ship owners must be held to account for their action,” he told BenarNews, , an RFA-affiliated online news service.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Sunday condemned what she called the “inhumane treatment” of the sailors which she said constituted “violations of human rights.”

“Some of them have not received their salaries, while some of them have received their salaries but the amounts were not in accordance with those stated in their contracts,” Retno said.

She said she was told the crew members had been forced to work more than 18 hours a day and urged Chinese authorities to cooperate with Indonesia in an investigation.

“The government has a strong commitment to resolve this case thoroughly,” she said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said Indonesian and Chinese authorities were investigating allegations of mistreatment against the crew members.

“This matter is being followed earnestly through legal processes by both Indonesian and Chinese authorities,” Faizasyah told BenarNews.

Chinese officials at the embassy in Jakarta could not be reached for comment.

Last week, South Korean media interviewed a crew member who said the bodies of three who died at sea between December and March were thrown overboard despite details in their contract calling for cremation.

The crew member said he and others were sometimes forced to work 30 straight hours while standing and given only six hours to eat and sleep before resuming their duties.

Sea burials

After meeting on May 7 with the Chinese ambassador to Indonesia, Xiao Xian, Retno said she asked if the burials complied with International Labor Organization standards, adding she was assured the Chinese had followed proper protocol to protect the health of crew members.

Pahrur said the government should not just accept China’s explanation that the sea burials were justified because of COVID-19 concerns.

“The government should not be fooled. There must be evidence that they really died of an infectious disease,” Pahrur told BenarNews.

The attorney said the four deaths were suspected to be a result of harsh conditions on the boat, including being forced to eat bad food and drink treated sea water. Crew members were paid U.S. $120 for the first three months of work even though they were promised $300 to $450 per month.

The Foreign Ministry has said all four of the Indonesian crew members who died had been registered to the Chinese fishing boat Long Xin 629. Two of the crewmen died on the boat in December, while one died in a South Korean hospital on April 27 and the fourth was transferred to another boat and died in March before it could reach port, it said.

On Friday, the Indonesian government repatriated 14 surviving crew members who ended up in the South Korean port city of Busan after their contracts expired. They are undergoing a 14-day quarantine in East Jakarta before being sent to their hometowns.

According to Ferdy Sambo, director of general crimes of at the national police, investigators are to question those involved in the recruitment of the crew members.

“If we find that their departure did not follow proper procedures, we will prosecute the recruitment companies under migrant labor and human trafficking laws,” Sambo told BenarNews.

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.


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