Police, military main human rights violators: Commission

Police, military main human rights violators: Commission
The Jakarta Post, 10 December 2010

By: Bagus BT Saragih

The human rights body has called on local administration chiefs to act as human rights vanguards to protect citizens from police and military officers who continue to abuse their power.

The lack of commitment from local leaders to uphold citizens’ rights has contributed to the continued use of violence by officers against citizens, National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) chair Ifdhal Kasim said.

“When you go through a local administration’s annual budget, you can see only a few programs are intended to raise people’s awareness about human rights or other policies related to human rights,” Ifdhal said at the release of the commission’s year-end report on Thursday.

Komnas HAM received 4,306 rights violation reports as of November 2010, a figure that differed little from 2009 when the commission received almost 5,000 reports. In 2008, there were about 4,000 reports.

Ifdhal said, contrary to expectation, that many times local administrations contributed to rights abuses.

In collaboration with local councilors, administrations often issued bylaws that allowed human rights violations, he said.

The commission noted that 3,200 bylaws nationwide have the potential to produce human rights violations.

Hundreds of sharia bylaws in Aceh, for example, have been criticized for abusing the poor and women.

One of the bylaws, known as qanun, requires women in Aceh to wear Muslim clothing. Another qanun prohibits young women and men from being alone.

Human rights abuses do not only involve state or government personnel, but also law enforcers, corporations, multinational companies and regular people, Ifdhal said.

“Today, many reports come from regions with extractive activities, like mining, logging and plantation work,” Ifdhal said.

Earlier this year, environmental activists filed a report with the National Police’s internal affairs division over a bloody clash between hundreds of Mobile Brigade officers and oil palm farmers in Kuantan Senggigi, Riau. The brawl killed one and injured dozens.

The activists complained the police acted as security officers for an oil palm plantation when the farmers protested the company, which had allegedly broken an agreement with locals.

In September, eight locals died and dozens were injured during a clash between residents and police officers in Buol, Central Sulawesi.

The police shot at angry residents who were attacking a police post where a man had died in custody the day before.

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Iskandar Hasan denied the police were human rights abusers, saying the force always respected human rights.

“We acknowledged several incidents at the regional level involving police officers, but that does not reflect the entire force,” he said, adding that the police’s internal affairs division had punished a number of police officers for violating ethics codes and human rights.

The Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation announced on Thursday that corporations were the institution with the most human rights violation complaints filed with them.

From December 2009 to October 2010, the foundation received 428 rights reports, 38 percent of which were complaints about corporations.

“Complaints about the government were 23 percent, while those about law enforcers were 21 percent,” foundation director Nurkholis Hidayat said.