Monday, January 16, 2012

Police Seen as Worst Torturers in Papua

A survey carried out by nongovernmental organizations between July and September last year showed there is a widespread belief among Papuans that the police committed most of the torture in the province.

For the survey, the Jakarta and Papua offices of the Legal Aid Institute (LBH) spoke to 205 respondents from various fields, including the police, prosecutors, customary and tribal leaders, commentators, criminal suspects and inmates at Abepura Prison in Jayapura, the provincial capital.

Respondents identified several institutions they believed were engaging in torture. These were the police, which 61 percent identified, prosecutors (31 percent) and prison officials (8 percent).

The findings echo the results of an earlier survey by LBH Jakarta, in which respondents identified the police as the main perpetrators of torture among all branches of law enforcement.

“The Papua survey confirms our earlier findings, with more than 60 percent of respondents identifying the police as being engaged in torture,” LBH researcher Laode M. Syarif said at the announcement of the survey results in Jakarta on Friday.

He said respondents to the survey also identified the three main methods of torture employed by law enforcement officials against suspects and inmates in Abepura: physical, psychological and sexual violence.

“Physical violence includes such acts as grabbing, dragging hitting and crippling,” he said. “Psychological torture includes threatening people at gunpoint, while sexual violence includes disrobing suspects, photographing them in forced intimate poses, groping and forcing them to perform oral sex on each other.”

He said the police employed these extreme measures because they were incapable of getting the information they wanted any other way. “It’s the easiest way to get a confession,” he said.

“These practices are carried out in defiance of a directive issued by the National Police chief in 2009 on implementing human rights standards and principles during the course of an investigation,” Syarif said.

He said the survey also indicated key differences in the way well-educated suspects were treated by the police. Suspects who had received a secondary education or higher, he said, were more likely to be tortured.

“There are also indications that suspects with an income of at least Rp 3 million [$325] are less likely to be tortured than lower-income suspects,” he said.

At the end of 2010, an investigation by LBH Jakarta in Surabaya, Jakarta, Makassar and the Acehnese towns of Banda Aceh and Lhokseumawe uncovered proof that the police were engaged in acts of torture.

The study found that Surabaya was perceived as having the highest rates of torture, with 93.8 percent of 96 suspects and inmates claiming torture was most widely carried out by police forces.

Police responded coolly. National Police spokesman Saud Usman Nasution said the police “respected the LBH’s opinion” and would look into the matter.

However, he questioned the methods used by the LBH in conducting the survey.

Additional reporting by Keyko Ranti Ramadhani & Carla Isati Octama