Friday, September 12, 2008

UN special rapporteur documents systematic torture of drug suspects in Indonesia

I recently came across a UN report, published in March, by Manfred Nowak, the UN's Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in which he chronicles the shocking mistreatment routinely meted out by police upon drug suspects in Indonesia. The report makes for grim reading and whilst not specifically focused on drugs policy it comes as little surprise that drug suspects form a substantial proportion of the abuse victims he details. Nowak notes that:

"Indonesia has not outlawed torture under its criminal legislation. Indonesian law does not contain an explicit prohibition of torture. This, combined with the absence of procedural safeguards against torture, the lack of independent monitoring mechanisms and of effective complaints mechanisms results in a system of quasi-total impunity."
It is hoped that this report, and its public dissemination, will lead to a change in enforcement culture in Indonesia, and highlight that everyone has inalienable human rights, including not being tortured whilst in custody, regardless of the offense. The UN declaration of Human Rights preamble states that:
'Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.'

'Everyone' includes drug users, drug suspects, and drug criminals.

The following are directly quoted from Nowak's report:

"22. The overwhelming majority of the detainees interviewed indicated that the ill-treatment was used primarily to extract confessions or, in the cases of drug-related crimes, to receive information on drug suppliers. In a number of cases detainees were offered to be spared in return for the payment of a substantial amount of money. Those interlocutors who had been already tried reported in unison that their coerced confessions had been used during the court proceedings and that objections they had raised were not considered by the judge, prosecutor or even their own legal aid clerk. Furthermore, they were not aware of any complaints mechanism to which they could address their grievances expecting any kind of outcome."

"64. Whereas in some police stations he did not receive any allegations of ill-treatment, in other facilities, in particular in urban areas, torture and ill-treatment is used routinely to extract confessions or in the context of drug charges to reveal dealers/suppliers. In three police stations, the Special Rapporteur arrived while beatings were taking place, and in several places he found persistent medical evidence of several types of ill-treatment, which are in line with reports by prisoners and various other credible sources received prior and during his visit."

"23. Achmad Alfian, aged 20, was arrested by officers of Polsek Tanabang in July 2006 while buying drugs. Although he did not resist, he was handcuffed and beaten with the but of a gun on his head. He was then transferred to the Polsek. During the ensuing interrogation he was beaten with a rubber stick all over his body, but particularly on his head and back in order to force him to confess to being a drug seller. Mr. Alfian refused and was charged. Furthermore, he had to pay 500 000 IDR (about 53 $US) for being put in a cell which was supposed to be of better quality than the others. In September 2006, Mr. Alfian was transferred to Pondok Bambu pre-trial detention facility. He constantly feels dizzy and has headaches."
"73. Detainee, aged 40, accused of a drug crime, was arrested on 27 August 2007 by seven drug police officers under the command of Iptu Alawah in his room in Jayapura. Upon his arrest he was handcuffed, forced to sit and beaten and kicked by them. They reportedly also stepped on his body and legs. He further complained about the lack of food."

"80. R., aged 25, from Makassar, was arrested on 25 May 2006 by the drug police. He was kicked in the stomach and hit on the face in the street for one hour, when he refused to tell where his drugs came from. He was then transferred to POLSEC Mamadjanj, where the beatings continued and he was hit with wooden sticks and hands all night until he told the names of the drug sellers."

"109. Mr. Zulfiqaraw, aged 40, from Lahore, Pakistan, was arrested at Jakarta Airport in November 2004 on allegations of drug related offences. While he was abroad the police raided his apartment in Jakarta which he shared with a friend who possessed drugs. Despite the friend’s confession and assurances that Mr. Zulfiqaraw was not involved in any drug related matter, the police took Mr. Zulfiqaraw from the airport to a private house, where he was tortured for three days. He was frequently punched, kicked and threatened with being shot unless he would confess. Nobody knew his whereabouts. After three days his health deteriorated so much that he had to be taken to the police hospital, where he was treated for 17 days. Subsequently, he was transferred to Polda Jakarta where he spent two and a half months in official police custody. The prosecutor in charge, Mr. Hutagaol, offered to drop any charges for a payment of 400 million IDR (about 42,700 $US). Mr. Zulfiqaraw perceived his ensuing trial as strikingly unfair and biased against him since he is a foreigner. No convincing evidence was presented; during the trial session his judge fell asleep. He did not receive any legal aid although he was not able to finance a lawyer; his embassy was wrongly informed and failed to support him. He was sentenced to death."
"121. Eko, aged 28, law student from Blora, Central Java, was arrested by six police officers at his home on 23 December 2006 based on the order of the head of the drug unit of Polres Sleman. He was kicked and punched by the officers and then taken to the Polres where he was interrogated in the office of Mr. Kurniawan. During interrogation he was electrocuted, got hammer blows on his fingers and was beaten by four police officers for one hour. The police officers also banged a chair on his body and put it on his toes. Following this treatment, he confessed, and Mr. Kurniawan offered him to drop some charges in exchange for money. He did not receive any medial treatment for his wounds and scars but the other detainees gave him some medicine. He was kept in Polres police custody for two months and then transferred to the prison LP Cebongan where he spent six months. At the Polres visitors had to pay 10 000 IDR (1 $US) to see him. The Prosecutor at the District Court offered mitigation in exchange of money. The Prosecutor was informed about the ill-treatment and the confession under torture, but this did not affect the outcome of the trial."

"127. On his way to the debriefing meeting with the authorities, the Special Rapporteur found Mr. Zulfikar, aged 20, accused of a drug related crime, who had just been tortured in office No. 50. He had been beaten with a stick and a white plastic pipe by four police officers named Briptu Arika (Reskrim); Briptu Safari S.Y. (SAT NARKOBA); Briptu Agmeg Jatmiko (SAT NARKOBA); and Briptu Opar S. (SAT NARKOBA), which left very clear and distinguishable marks on his arm. The Head of the Narcotics Unit (Andri Triasfoetra, SIK) tried to deny the Special Rapporteur access, arguing that his mandate does not cover persons outside detention places (i.e. under interrogation).

128. The findings of the forensic expert (who recorded the evidence) as well as Mr. Zulfikar’s girlfriend, whom the Special Rapporteur interviewed, confirmed that Mr. Zulfikar had been tortured. She had been arrested together with him and put in the room next to the office where Mr. Zulfikar was ill-treated. She reported that she had heard his screams. She was extremely afraid of the police officers and cried repeatedly when interviewed by the Special Rapporteur. Although Mr. Zulfikar and his girlfriend were both extremely afraid of reprisals for speaking with the Special Rapporteur and begged for protection, the request of the Special Rapporteur to release them was not complied with. "

"139. Suhenry, aged 34, from Aceh, was arrested by five officers of Polres South Jakarta District in November 2006 in connection with a drug related crime. In the course of the first three days he was repeatedly interrogated by two officers in an ordinary office room on the second floor with the aim of identifying his supplier. When Mr. Suhenry refused to indicate his name they pressed his hand on the desk and beat his palm and fingers with a hammer. Furthermore, they used electroshock devices to electrocute him and punched him all over the body. At one point, the officers offered to let him escape, however, Mr. Suhenry stayed since he believed that this was a trick in order to shoot him during what would be later presented as an attempt to flee. The officers also put a plastic bag over his head, but Mr. Suhenry managed to bite a hole in it enabling him to breath. Eventually, Mr. Suhenry confessed in order to end the torture."

"141. After having inspected the cells, the Special Rapporteur ran into Mohammed Tasroni, aged 17, from Jakarta, who was handcuffed to a chair in an office belonging to the drug unit on the fourth floor. Mr. Tasroni was in the process of being interrogated by Mr. Sudartianta (No. 65080313) and had very strong swellings on this face as well as other traces of recent beatings all over his body.

"142. Mr. Tasroni reported that he had been arrested a few hours earlier near the Jatinegara Train Station, East Jakarta. There, he had met an old acquaintance whom he had not seen for a very long time and who asked to provide him with a dose of marijuana. After Mr. Tasroni had arranged for the drugs and handed them over to the former, it turned out that he was actually an undercover police officer working for the pursuit and attack team (“Buser”) of the Criminal Investigation Department. Mr. Tasroni was arrested by several plain-clothes police officers and taken to a private house, which appeared to be an empty office building, in a civilian Kijang car. Once in the house, the officers started to punch and kick Mr. Tasroni all over his body and on his face. He was also heavily beaten on his back. Mr. Tasroni was told the beating would not stop unless he would reveal the identity of his drug dealer. The beating was inflicted in the presence and with the participation of Mr. Bambang (AKP), the chief of Unit III/Baya of the Narcotics
For more detailed and up to date coverage of drugs and human rights issues visit the IHRA HR2 blog. The HR2 team will be holding a joint event with HUman Rights Watch at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva later this month. Details here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a frequent reader of your blog, but I really couldn't bear to read this. It was too awful. The one thing that makes my blood boil more than the war on drugs is human rights abuse. This is a gut-wrenching double whammy of horridness.

The drug war has had dreadful consequences in the UK, but they seem like nothing when you consider how other less civil countries tend to uphold the law. All for some unworkable, immoral, and unnecessary laws. It shows how urgently these idiotic laws must be dropped.

Do you know how widespread drug use and trafficking is in Indonesia? I know Indonesia is a huge country (4th largest), how many drug arrests/prosecutions happen each year? It would help give this important story some context.