Police brutality still widespread in Indonesia

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Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - A human rights group alleged over the weekend that the Indonesian National Police made widespread use of torture in their detention centres to extract information from detainees.

The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam) claimed in its quarterly report that at least 10 detainees, out of 22 cases of torture it investigated, had died in police detention. The Elsam survey, conducted between January and April, found that 32 individuals had been tortured.

"We found that 12 of the 22 cases of torture against detainees were committed by active-duty police officers. This shows that despite massive media reporting about the practice the police have not yet learned their lesson and still resort to violence to collect information," said Elsam researcher Wahyudi Djafar.

The survey, conducted by Elsam affiliates interviewing former detainees, also shows that instances of torture occurred in 16 provinces in the country, including Jakarta, West Java, East Java, North Sumatra and Lampung. The survey also examined reports of torture in the news media.

In the quarterly report, Elsam highlighted a number of brutal cases of torture including one in March this year that involved Erik Alamsyah, 21, in Padang, West Sumatra.

Erik was dead only four hours after being arrested for alleged motorcycle theft. He was found to have bruising all over his body and an injury allegedly sustained from a police officer's metal belt buckle.

Six officers were questioned about the incident but no charges were pressed against them.

In another case, in Semarang, Central Java, Suryo, 48, was found dead in his detention cell when family members came to visit. Suryo was arrested at home, without warrant, for alleged gambling in January.

Officers in charge of his investigation told the family that Suryo had died of a heart attack in spite of indications of torture. Witnesses said they found bruises on his back and evidence of blows to his head.

Another survey by the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) also came to the same conclusion.

In the survey, released in April this year, LBH Jakarta found that of a total of 100 respondents, detainees in juvenile detention centres in Jakarta and Tangerang, Banten, 98 percent claimed to have suffered from various types of torture including verbal abuse, beatings, starvation, being held at gunpoint, stripped naked and sexual abuse. One respondent claimed to have been raped.

The survey also revealed that 82 percent of respondents, who were arrested between 2010 and 2011, were tortured while being questioned.

Activist Edy H. Gurning of the LBH Jakarta said torture remained the preferred method of extracting information from detainees by police officers because it carried little or no punishment.

Edy said that police officers found to have tortured detainees would only be charged under the Criminal Code (KUHP) or brought to an ethics-code tribunal.

"This is a serious crime because it is not an ordinary type of violence. Torture is always used by somebody who has superior authority," he said.

Edy said that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had to take action against torture because Indonesia had ratified in 1985 the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Both Edy and Wahyudi agreed that the convention alone was not enough. They called on the government to ratify the Optional Protocol of the convention which would open the country's prisons to independent external monitoring.

"Nothing will be guaranteed until the Optional Protocol is ratified," Wahyudi said.

Earlier this year, the Partnership for Governance Reform (Kemitraan), LBH Jakarta and LBH Papua launched a report showing that torture was still rampant in Papua.

In interviews conducted from October to December 2011, 205 respondents - ranging from suspects, police personnel, prosecutors, correctional officers, human rights activists, academics and local tribal chiefs - testified that the police committed torture during arrests.

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammad Taufik said that he would look into the report.

Taufik said the police faced problems in investigating torture claims. "We receive most reports of torture after detainees are released, making it hard for us to find evidence and to press charges based on the KUHP," he said, "In which case we can only use the code of ethics."

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