Indonesia backdown on state 'torturers'

Indonesia backdown on state 'torturers'
Sydney Morning Herald, 14 September 2010

The Ambon-based unit of Detachment 88, accused of brutality and the torture of peaceful political protesters, will be disbanded, the head of the elite counter-terrorism force, Tito Karnavian, has said.

The decision to remove Detachment 88 entirely from the Malukas archipelago came as a Herald investigation exposed serious abuses of political prisoners in the province by its members last month.

Brigadier General Karnavian said it was clear the Malukan separatists were peaceful, and therefore there was no need for Detachment 88 to be involved in the province. ''Detachment 88 in Ambon will be dismissed very soon,'' he said.

Advertisement: Story continues below The Herald yesterday revealed allegations by a group of men who were arrested last month and taken to Detachment 88's Ambon headquarters. They said they were beaten for up to a week; brought to the point of suffocation with plastic bags placed over their heads; pierced with nails while forced to hold stress positions; and ordered to eat raw chillies. Two men were hospitalised.

It was also revealed the Australian embassy in Jakarta had sent an official to investigate the abuses, and the US had blacklisted members of Detachment 88 based in Ambon, the Maluku capital, and had refused to train or equip them since 2008.

Brigadier General Karnavian denied there was a systemic problem of excessive force within Detachment 88, a criticism that has also surfaced because of the number of terrorist suspects - 17 in the past year - who have been shot dead rather than arrested.

He said the new allegations of abuses in Maluku could be investigated by local authorities or, possibly, internal affairs.

But Kontras, Indonesia's leading human rights group, said an independent review of Detachment 88 was the only way to have a serious investigation into its alleged abuses.