Torture ‘Widespread’ in Indonesia: Amnesty

JAKARTA ~ Indonesian police commonly beat and torture people in custody and offer better treatment in exchange for money and sex, Amnesty International said in a report released this week.

The human rights organisation demanded the government acknowledge the problem and end the culture of impunity that allows police to act as if they are above the law in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

The report, Unfinished Business: Police Accountability in Indonesia, found that the police were particularly brutal to the most vulnerable and marginalised people, such as drug addicts and women.

“Amnesty International’s report shows how widespread the culture of abuse is among the Indonesian police force,” the organisation’s Asia Pacific deputy director, Donna Guest, said.

“The police’s primary role is to enforce the law and protect human rights, yet all too often many police officers behave as if they are above the law.”

The report cited the case of 21-year-old sex worker Dita, who was arrested in 2006 and described being sexually abused on the way to the police station.

“I was arrested with five or six other prostitutes. On the way to (the station) they were grabbing me and touching me saying, ‘You’re so young. Why aren’t you in school?’,” she was quoted as saying.

At the station the women were told they could buy their freedom with US$100 or with sex.

“Three of the girls agreed to have sex with them. I point-blank refused to do either. Our pimps have paid them enough already,” she said.

Abuses meted out included shootings, electric shocks and beatings, sometimes for days on end, the report said.

“The suspects often received inadequate medical care for the injuries they received as a result of torture and other ill treatment,” Amnesty said.

“In some cases detainees had to pay for treatment after police abused them, and received inadequate medical care from police medical institutions.”

The report, based on interviews in Indonesia over two years, said police frequently sought bribes from detainees in return for better treatment or lighter sentences.

“At a time when the Indonesian government and senior police figures have made the commitment to enhance trust between the police and the community, the message is not being translated into practical steps,” Guest said.

“Too many victims are left without access to real justice and reparations, thus fuelling a climate of mistrust towards the police.”

Most police do not even know of, let alone follow, the force’s code of conduct which forbids abuse, she said.

Victims’ complaints were not impartially investigated and opened the plaintiff to further abuse, especially if they were still in police custody.

Amnesty recommended the government acknowledge and condemn the problem but no police or government officials attended the launch of the 84-page report.

It is the second report from a major international rights group to condemn torture in Indonesia this month.

US-based Human Rights Watch said in early June that torture and abuse of prisoners in a jail in the Papua region was “rampant.”

The United Nations has reported that Indonesian police routinely torture and beat suspects in custody.

Indonesia is a signatory to the UN Convention against Torture but it has no corresponding law against the practice.

The UN special rapporteur for torture visited Indonesia in 2007 and found that police used torture as a “routine practice in Jakarta and other metropolitan areas of Java.”

A decade of political and institutional reform after the fall of the military-backed Suharto regime in 1998 has not left its mark on the police and prison system, analysts say.

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