Report – By a special correspondent in Jakarta
A survey jointly conducted by two Indonesian non-government organisations – the Partnership for Governance Reform (Kemitraan) and the Legal Aid Institute (LBH) – has found that torture is a common practice among members of the National Police in West Papua and has become the chief means for extracting information from suspects.
The survey, conducted from October to December last year, also confirmed the finding from last year’s survey, also by Kemitraan, that the National Police are the most violent legal enforcement institution.
“The survey shows that police officers are most prone to violence compared to other law enforcers in Papua. And this also applies to other regions in the country, as most of them continue to use torture to enforce the law,” said Laode M. Syarif, who chairs the security and justice governance division at the Kemitraan.
He said that members of the police tortured suspects to force them into making admissions about alleged crimes.
“This is reprehensible because Indonesia has signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which was ratified in 1998,” he said.
In the survey, the two organisations interviewed 205 respondents ranging from suspects, police personnel, prosecutors, correctional officers, human rights activists, academics and local tribal chiefs, all of whom testified that the police committed torture during arrests.
Some 95 percent of the respondents admitted that torture happened during investigation. Nearly 75 percent of the respondents claimed that police used torture during detention and 15 percent of the respondents said that torture happened in jail.
In Papua, correctional officers ranked second in the survey for their proclivity to use torture against inmates, with 22 percent of those surveyed claiming that torture happened during detention, and 70 percent of respondents admitting that coercion was used in penitentiary facilities.
Kemitraan and its partners, the LBH Jakarta and LBH Papua, interviewed 205 respondents for the survey and held numerous focus group discussions with them. Fifty out of the total respondents were victims in criminal cases including suspects, defendants and convicts.
Nurcholis Hidayat of LBH Jakarta said that the survey findings indicated a persistent culture of violence in the police force.
“Nothing changes with the way the police enforce the law as they still use violence, including torture in Papua. This survey has affirmed our previous study showing the police are the most violent institution in the country. The result from Papua can be applied to other places in the country,” said Nurcholis.
Kemitraan and LBH conducted the research in Jakarta, Banda Aceh, Lhokseumawe, Surabaya and Makassar between 2009 and 2010.
The two-year survey shows that police considered torture as a legitimate means of collecting evidence.
The 2009-2010 survey involved 748 suspects, defendants and convicts in detention centers and prisons.
Laode said that the National Police, the Attorney General’s Office and the Correctional Facilities Directorate General at the Law and Human Rights Ministry had all rejected the findings because they were not involved in the study.
“For this reason, we involved them in our recent study. But, the result remains the same, with the police committing the highest number of torture compared to other institutions,” he said.
The latest survey shows that punching, kicking, slapping, hair pulling, dragging, forced nudity, waterboarding, burning with cigarettes, electric shocks, groping, burning parts of the body, forced kissing, forced masturbation, forced oral sex and rape are also the most frequent kind of torture used in Papua.
A report from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in 2011 came up with similar findings. Komnas HAM recorded that police were involved in 40 cases of torture throughout the country last year, up from 30 in 2010.
Responding to the survey, director for security and order of the Correctional Facilities Directorate General Maknun said that torture was used in jail to impose order.
“Prisoners will only listen to you when you show them that you have the power. For instance, none of those who have drugs will admit they do so unless you torture them,” he said.
Maknun said that smacking was the most common practice found in the country’s prisons. He assured that more officers at penitentiaries were aware that torture was against prisoners’ rights.
“We, and other law enforcers, including the police, have been given training on human rights. I believe law enforcers are gradually learning how to better deal with suspects, defendants or convicts,” he said.
Source: The Jakarta Post