JAKARTA, Indonesia – Law enforcement officials from police to prison wardens routinely torture Indonesian suspects and convicts to extract confessions or obtain information, a new report asserted Friday.
Beatings, intimidation, burnings and rape are so commonplace that they are considered the norm, with few victims ever bothering to lodge complaints, said Restaria Hutabarat of the Jakarta-based Legal Aid Foundation.
The torture findings, published this week, were based on yearlong interviews with 1,154 suspects and prison inmates in the capital, Jakarta, and four other major cities in 2009 and 2010. Questionnaires also were given to 419 police, prosecutors, judges, wardens and rights activists who accompanied suspects during the legal process.
“We found that torture is systematic,” Hutabarat said Friday, adding that it starts with the arrest and continues during interrogations, trials and after imprisonment. “It is seen as a normal way to get information and extract confessions.”
Indonesia, a sprawling archepeligo nation of 237 million people, only emerged from decades of dictatorship in 1998.
National police spokesman Col. Boy Rafli Amar said he would study the 21-page report.
“If officers are abusing civilians, they should face sanctions,” he said. “It’s unacceptable.”
One of the main problems, researchers wrote, is that under Indonesian law, torture carried out by law enforcers is not considered a crime.
And, as opposed to most other democratic countries, evidence obtained through violence and intimidation is legally accepted in the court.
“This has to change,” said Hutabarat.
Convicted drug user, Suliyanti, who spent five years in prison on drug charges, agreed with the report’s findings. The 48-year-old said she was abused from the moment of her arrest and until her release in 2007.
“I was kicked and beaten, even stripped and groped,” she told The Associated Press. “I know many other female suspects and convicts who were also raped.