Indonesian torture ‘so common it’s the norm’

INDONESIAN suspects and convicts are routinely tortured by police and prison wardens to obtain confessions or information, a report claims.

Beatings, intimidation, burnings and rape were so commonplace that they were considered the norm, with few victims bothering to lodge complaints, Restaria Hutabarat of the Jakarta-based Legal Aid Foundation said yesterday.

The findings are based on year-long interviews with 1154 suspects and prison inmates in the capital and four other major cities in 2009-10.

Questionnaires were also given to 419 police, prosecutors, judges, wardens and rights activists who accompanied suspects during the legal process.

“We found that torture is systematic,” Mr Hutabarat said, adding that it started with the arrest and continued during interrogations, trials and after imprisonment.

“It is seen as a normal way to get information and extract confessions,” he said.

Indonesia, a nation of 237 million people, only emerged from decades of dictatorship in 1998. Though it has moved towards democracy by scrapping repressive laws, freeing the media and letting citizens pick their leaders, a weak legal system remains.

National police spokesman Colonel 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.”

Under Indonesian law, torture carried out by law enforcers is not considered a crime. And evidence thus obtained is accepted in court.

“I was kicked and beaten, even stripped and groped,” said convicted drug user Suliyanti, who spent five years in prison on drug charges and agreed with the findings. “I know many other female suspects and convicts who were also raped.”

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