Papua Prison Said To Torture Prisoners

Papua Prison Said To Torture Prisoners

Jakarta Globe

US-based Human Rights Watch on Friday called on Indonesia to look into the reported torture and abuse of prisoners in a jail in the province of Papua.

In a press release, Human Rights Watch singled out brutality by prison guards at the state jail in Abepura, near the Papua capital of Jayapura.

“How can the government turn a blind eye to beatings and torture in one of its prisons?” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Jakarta needs to put an end to this disgraceful behavior, punish those responsible and start keeping a close eye on what is happening there.”

The watchdog cited reports of more than two dozen cases of beatings and physical abuse since Anthonius Ayorbaba, a former official of the Jayapura office of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, became the prison warden in August 2008.

It called on the government to replace the prison administration, open the penitentiary to international monitoring and set up an independent team to probe the reports of abuse in Abepura prison, which currently has about 230 prisoners, including more than a dozen incarcerated because of their political activities.

Human Rights Watch cited cases that took place between September and May, including the alleged beatings of prisoners for trivial offenses, often with the offending prison guards in a drunken stupor and sometimes leading to serious injuries.

It said that although the country has the 1995 Law on Rehabilitation, setting out procedures for prisoners to complain about mistreatment in prison, efforts to lodge complaints so far have been fruitless and Ayorbaba has been unwilling to address any abuse complaints.

Prior to Ayorbaba’s posting as warden, prisoners and their relatives often reported incidents of abuse by guards to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, but no action was ever taken.

Prisoners say they have stopped reporting abuses because they lack faith in the system and because they fear retribution if they speak to Ayorbaba’s former employer.

“The Indonesian government needs to replace the Abepura prison management,” Adams said. “But this is not just a failure of one prison warden. It’s a failure of Jakarta to set proper standards and enforce them.”

Access to Papua has been strictly limited. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also ordered the International Committee of the Red Cross to close its field office in Jayapura. The ICRC ran sanitation projects in Papua and also visited detainees, including political prisoners, in Abepura prison.

Human Rights Watch said that international monitors such as the ICRC and independent human rights groups should be able to visit prisoners in Abepura to investigate reports of abuse.

Papua has seen a low-level separatist movement since the 1960s but pro-independence sentiments have been on the rise in the face of perceived injustice in the economy and alleged abuses by security forces in their drive to rid the province of separatism.

The UN special rapporteur for torture visited Indonesia in 2007 and found that police used torture as a “routine practice in Jakarta and other metropolitan areas of Java.”