Editorial: An inherited culture?
The nation’s political decision in 2000 – via a People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) decree that separated the National Police (Polri) from the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI), the previous name of the Indonesian Military (TNI) — clearly aimed at providing a legal umbrella for both the police and the military and drawing a strict line on rules of the game and rules of engagement between the two security institutions.
The MPR decree has thus been the foundation for the establishment of Law No. 2/2002 on the National Police and of Law No. 34/2004 on the Indonesian Military. The 2002 law on Polri clearly stipulates that the police’s main task is to guarantee and maintain domestic security and order, while the 2004 law on the TNI regulates the military’s main task to defend the nation from external military and security threats.
Still, 14 years after the 1998 reform movement and 12 years after the Police-TNI separation, the police are still not completely free from the military-style approach in handling security threats and disorder that it had been accustomed to during its three-decade association with the ABRI. The latest report by the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), which alleged that the Polri had made widespread use of torture in their detention centers to extract information from detainees, only confirms that the police force could not completely abandon the militaristic approach in ensuring domestic security and order.
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. The survey also shows that instances of torture occurred in 16 provinces in the country, including Jakarta, West Java, East Java, North Sumatra and Lampung.
A survey by the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) released in April also came to the same conclusion. The institute found that of a total of 100 respondents, detainees in juvenile detention centers in Jakarta and Tangerang, Banten, between 2010 and 2011, 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.
An earlier survey co-organized by the Partnership for Governance Reform (Kemitraan), LBH Jakarta and LBH Papua also revealed that torture was still rampant in Papua. In interviews held 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.
Apart from being part of a decades-long culture, such rampant practices of torture by the police are undoubtedly due to the minimum sanctions imposed against those committing torture, as perpetrators would only be charged under the Criminal Code (KUHP) or brought to an ethics-code tribunal, while Indonesia had in fact ratified in 1985 the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment that ensures strict punishment against such practices.
In addition to strict punishment, the government also needs to ratify the Optional Protocol of the convention, which would open the country’s prisons to independent external monitoring.
Eradicating such a culture of torture is indeed a difficult job to perform. Only strict law enforcement and regulation will significantly reduce — if not terminate — such practices.