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Jakarta Post

Rights groups highlight cases of police brutality on National Police’s 74th anniversary

  • Alya Nurbaiti and Tri Indah Oktavianti

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, July 1, 2020   /   06:25 pm
Rights groups highlight cases of police brutality on National Police’s 74th anniversary Members of the National Police’s Garuda Bhayangkara task force are inducted in a ceremony at the police training center in Bogor, West Java. (The Jakarta Post/PJ Leo)

Human rights organizations have slammed the police over allegations of excessive force and police brutality in time for the 74th anniversary of the National Police on Wednesday.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) released on Tuesday a report on excessive force and violence at the hands of the police from July 2019 to June this year.

“In the past year, we recorded 921 incidents of police brutality that resulted in 1,627 people getting injured and 304 killed,” Kontras chair Fatia Mauilidiyanti said during a press briefing on Tuesday in Jakarta.

The report records various forms of ill-treatment, including persecution, subjective arrests, discrimination toward Papuans, threats to human rights defenders, improper use of firearms and disproportionate involvement in the handling of the COVID-19 epidemic, as well as police officers holding government positions.

Kontras also said the police had no priority in law enforcement and acted arbitrarily in the name of “stability”.

Similarly, the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) said in a statement on Wednesday that, in 2019, it recorded 56 cases of police persecution against civilians, with 601 victims. The number is double the 27 cases of police persecution recorded in 2018.

“Impunity [was] enjoyed by the suspects implicated in the acts of violence,” the YLBHI said through a written statement on Wednesday.

Kontras recorded that 4,051 people had been arrested, some of whom were persecuted when exercising their right to protest, including during antiracism protests in Papua and the #ReformasiDikorupsi (Reform the Corrupt) series of rallies in late 2019.

Kontras researcher Rivanlee Ananda said the police had no measurable indicators while their subjectivity was very high in regard to civil liberties-related issues.

“They often take aim at government critics and use discretion to arrest them,” he said, adding that poor checks and balances within the police institution had resulted in repeated violations of freedom of expression.

The YLBHI recorded 67 cases of police involvement in violations against freedom of expression in 2019. 

“The police involved in the incidents ranged from district units to regional police units,” the YLBHI wrote. “The violations were done in various forms including physical abuse, abduction and the alleged determent of judicial assistance for victims.”

Read also: Jakarta riot: Police violence in spotlight after viral beating video

Furthermore, Kontras also found 48 alleged cases of torture committed by police officers: nine toward civilians and 39 toward inmates.

The past year also saw a new form of torture, cybertorture, in which the police deliberately use or neglect reports of doxxing and other forms of intimidation, harassment and manipulation of personal information through cyber operations. 

“Cybertorture causes distress, which could lead to depression and suicide. Victims also lost a sense of security in conveying their feelings in digital space,” Rivanlee said.

Kontras highlighted 1,324 incidents of racist and discriminative treatment toward Papuans by the police and 534 shooting incidents resulting in 683 injuries and 287 deaths.

“Given the magnitude of shooting incidents, the police should evaluate whether the use of firearms has been in accordance with their regulation,” said Fatia.

The report also showed many incidents, besides shootings, in which the police had violated Police Chief Regulation No. 8/2009 on the implementation of the human rights principle in performing duties and Police Chief Regulation No. 1/2009 on the use of force.

Kontras reported that the police’s involvement in COVID-19 handling had no accountable indicators and that they tended to abuse their authority, resulting in counterproductive actions and once again, limiting and violating civil rights.

Earlier, the National Police chief issued a letter ordering cyberpatrols to monitor the development of opinions in cyberspace during the pandemic. Numerous arrests have been made because the police decided certain expressions had insulted state officials, were considered defamation or spread fake news.

“The police should not be at the center of efforts to handle the pandemic. They should stick to their roles and have clear guidelines. Their repressive approach should also be evaluated as it has not done much to curb the virus,” Kontras researcher Danu Aulia Pratama said.

The report also highlighted that 30 active and retired police officers held government positions. “Such power relations raise the risk and vulnerability in the use of police force for certain purposes. It will erode police independence,” said Fatia.

Given the large number of reported police violations, the YLBHI called on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and the House of Representatives to push for police reform and ensure that police who violated the law were duly punished.

“We also urge the National Police to obey the principles of human rights in carrying out their duties,” it said.