Indonesia peaceful protesters face torture-report / Political prisoners an 'ugly stain' on Indonesia: HRW

Indonesia peaceful protesters face torture-report

Reuters, 23 June 2010

By Sunanda Creagh

Indonesian jails hold at least 100 political prisoners from the Papua and Moluccas regions, including some who were tortured, Human Rights Watch said in a report published on Wednesday.

The New York-based rights watchdog called on the Indonesian government to release prisoners detained for their political views and repeal laws allowing authorities to jail peaceful protesters for treason or rebellion.

It also urged the government to revoke laws banning the display of logos and flags.

"The practice of lumping together peaceful advocates and armed militants and treating both as criminals continues in Papua and the southern Moluccas," the report said.

A secessionist movement has simmered for decades in resource-rich Papua, on the western half of New Guinea island, home to the enormous Grasberg mine operated by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.

Hidden gunmen have launched fatal attacks on convoys of Freeport workers travelling to and from the mine, but it is unclear whether separatists were behind the attacks.

Indigenous groups in the southern Moluccas in eastern Indonesia, and particularly the island of Ambon, have also agitated for the creation of an independent Republic of the Southern Moluccas.

Police and military forces have attempted to crush both movements with harsh penalties for offences such as the unfurling of flags or, in the case of the southern Moluccas, dancing the "cakalele" -- a traditional war dance associated with the secessionist movement.

The Human Rights Watch report detailed cases of alleged torture of political prisoners.

"I do not have the benefit of previewing the report prior to its release, so I do not know for sure the claim made in the report. But I am confident that there is a complaint procedure that prisoners can pursue if there is any ill treatment," said foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah.

The report said that John Teterisa, a schoolteacher detained in 2007 for dancing the cakalele in front of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was beaten continuously for 12 hours a day for 11 days after his arrest.

"Several (police officers) beat him with iron rods and stones, and slashed him with a bayonet," the report said. Teterisa was sentenced to life in prison in 2008, but the sentence was reduced to 15 years on appeal, the report said.

Another Moluccas activist quoted in the report described being beaten with pieces of wood, causing intestinal and urinary tract bleeding, after raising a separatist flag. (Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Ron Popeski)


Political prisoners an 'ugly stain' on Indonesia: HRW

 23 June 2010


The detention of scores of political prisoners often in abusive and inhumane conditions is an "ugly stain" on Indonesian democracy, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Wednesday.

A new report by the New York-based watchdog urged Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to immediately release more than 100 Papuan and Moluccan political prisoners and revoke the laws under which they were jailed.

"Imprisoning activists for peacefully voicing their political views is an ugly stain on Indonesia?s recent improvements in human rights," HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said in a statement.

"It?s out of step with Indonesia's growing aspirations as a democratic and rights-respecting country."

The report titled "Prosecuting Political Aspiration" said continued persecution of peaceful political activists undermined democratic reforms since the fall of military strongman Suharto in 1998.

When it came to independence activists from Papua or the southern Moluccas -- restive regions where separatist tensions have simmered for decades -- Suharto-era practices of "lumping together peaceful activists and armed militants" persisted, along with torture and abuse.

The report profiles 10 prominent political prisoners from Papua and the Moluccas, all of whom complained of ill-treatment and abuse including beatings with wooden bats and cables.

"I was tortured for 14 days in Tantui (prison), day and night. They picked me up in the morning and returned me, bleeding, to my cell in the evening," Moluccan activist Reimond Tuapattinaya was quoted as saying in the report.

Many of the prisoners were convicted under draconian laws which set heavy punishments for displaying outlawed separatist symbols such as the Papuan Morning Star and the South Moluccan rebel flags.

HRW called on the European Union to take up the issue when it launches a human rights dialogue with Indonesia in Jakarta next Tuesday.

It also called on Australia and the United States to stop providing training assistance to the counter-terror police force known as Detachment 88, blamed for some of the worst abuses in the Moluccas.