Monday, June 27, 2011

Indonesia struggles to protect human rights

Though the demise of its authoritarian rule is now 13 years past, Indonesia still struggles to protect human rights, as the state repeatedly finds itself embroiled in criminal acts against its citizens, a report says.

A one-year review by the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), which wraps up in June, identified 30 incidents in which citizens were brutally tortured by the usual suspects, the police and the army, through interrogation and efforts to intimidate. Kontras asserts that the figure only represented the tip of the iceberg, as victims seldom have the courage or the means to report the abuses.

Within the first week of August 2010, serious human rights abuses happened in Ambon as the police — which included the Detachment 88 counterterrorism squad — arrested 23 citizens for alleged involvement in the South Maluku Republic (RMS) separatist movement.

From the arrests, Kontras identified at least 13 out of the 23 who were tortured by methods that included punching and kicking, being beaten with wooden blocks, suffocation and sexual abuse. The arrests were made without warrants and the suspects were not granted legal assistance during their detention. Kontras said what happened in Ambon was consistent with the characteristics of human rights abuses by the police during interrogation processes in most criminal investigations.

Kontras identified seven cases of human rights abuses committed by the military. An incident that attracted international attention was a YouTube video of two Papuans being tortured by military officers in October. The video shows a man holding a knife against the throat of another man who is almost completely naked and lying on the ground. In another scene, a man with a black bag on his head presses a glowing-hot bamboo stick against another man’s genitals. Three officers were later tried in a military court for the crime.

Kontras coordinator Haris Azhar argues that the practice of torture remains persistent among law enforcement officers because laws that prosecute torture by government officials are non-existent.

“It still happens because the government is not serious; there is no punishment for torture acts. Military and police officers who torture are just punished with disciplinary sanctions but there is no hard punishment for torture,” he said during the release of Kontras review on Saturday in conjunction with the commemoration of the UN’s international day in support of victims of torture.

Harris said Indonesia had no specific law stipulating criminal prosecution in accordance with the definition on torture as outlined in the United Nations Convention against Torture, which was ratified by the government in 1998.

“We urge the government — especially the Law and Human Rights Ministry — to design a bill to prevent torture and punish those who practice it. The criminalization of torture will be an important key and alternative measure because the deliberation of the amendment on the penal code has yet to be finished.” (rcf) The Jakarta Post

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