Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Australian Authorities Not Welcome to Investigate Alleged Torture Allegations, Indonesian Anti Terror Unit

National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri says the elite Detachment 88 antiterror unit cannot be investigated by Australian authorities in the wake of torture allegations involving its Ambon-based unit.

Jakarta. National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri has rejected any suggestion that the Australian government would investigate Indonesia’s elite antiterror police unit, Densus 88, amid allegations that members of the Ambon-based unit tortured peaceful political prisoners.

“There are no foreign authorities who can conduct any form of investigation of our officers,” Bambang told reporters at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday. “It’s impossible.”

Member of the elite unit in Ambon, which receives a large portion of its funding from the Australian and United States governments as well as training, have been accused of torturing 12 people arrested for attempting to raised the banned South Maluku Republic (RMS) flag during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s visit to the province on Aug. 3.

Over the course of a week, the victims were allegedly blindfolded, beaten, pierced with nails, forced to hold stress positions and forced to eat chillies. One of the men, Yonias Siahaya, has been left paralyzed from the waist down, it was reported.

Bambang, in his comments on Tuesday, was reacting to a statement from the Australian ministry of foreign affairs that it had sent officials to Ambon to investigate the claims.

“The Australian government is aware of and concerned by the allegations of brutality [raised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch] toward political prisoners,” the statement said.

“Australian Embassy officials [in] Jakarta have made inquiries with the Indonesian National Police, including during a recent visit to Ambon, where these allegations were discussed with both government and civil society representatives,” the official said.

Bambang also avoided answering a question about funding for Densus 88, also known as Detachment 88.

“Aid can take various forms, it can be in a form of cooperation et cetera but the point is, no foreign party can investigate my officers,” he reiterated.

The Sydney Morning Herald, meanwhile, has quoted Brig. Gen. Tito Karnavian as saying that the Ambon-based unit of Densus 88 would be disbanded because the alleged separatists were peaceful.

He denied suggestions there was a wider problem of excessive force within the unit.

The United States has reportedly pulled funding or other assistance to the Ambon-based members of the unit since 2008.

Foreign assistance for Indonesia’s often notorious security personnel is a sensitive topic in many donor nations, with most human rights opposed to providing any form of assistance until Indonesia addresses its military’s alleged war crimes and human rights abuses.

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