Police Most Violent Institution in 2010, Kontras Says

Police Most Violent Institution in 2010, Kontras Says

Jakarta Globe, 29 December 2010

By: Dessy Sagita


A major Indonesian human rights group has accused the National Police of being the state institution guilty of committing the highest number of acts of violence against the public in 2010.

This year “leaves a big stain on the National Police’s record in terms of working toward reform and accountability,” Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), told a press conference on Tuesday.

“This year there were at least 34 cases of violence perpetrated by members of the National Police against the public,” he said.

Haris added that most of the violence involved torture, especially during investigations, as well as the excessive use of force and abuse of police weapons.

Kontras said that many cases of police violence were linked to the frequent arrest of those believed to be involved in separatist movements, including the use of excessive force, torture and the denial of rights, such as suspects’ lack of access to family and lawyers.

“The thing is, not everyone arrested for being involved with a separatist group such as RMS [South Maluku Republic] or OPM [Free Papua Movement] has been proven to be a member of these groups,” Haris said. “And even if they were, it’s still not right to torture them during investigations.”

He added that in many such cases victims were not even offered access to medical treatment after being tortured.

Kontras further underlined the state’s failure to protect freedom of religion in Indonesia, as witnessed by the rampant cases of violence occurring against religious minorities across the country this year.

Haris said that during recent cases of religious violence, such as the church attack in Ciketing, Bekasi, and at the Khasanah Kautsar Orphanage, the police have tended to simply stand by as minority groups were the victims of violence.

He cited another example of police violence against the public in Buol, Central Sulawesi, in September when police fired live rounds into a crowd of rioters, killing eight people and injuring 26 more.

Haris said the police had not been open enough when it came to enforcing the law against its own officers, with the number of violent acts committed by members of the force remaining high.

He said police officers were often lightly sanctioned for infractions, including violence.

“There is no firm punishment to give a strong warning to other police officers,” he said.

Haris said the high volume of violence committed by members of the National Police was ironic because since the reform era started in 1998, the force had carried out institutional reforms many times over and developed many instruments of law to deal with such cases.

National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar said he appreciated the feedback from Kontras. However, he denied that the police had performed poorly in pursuing cases of violence involving its members.

Boy said the National Police had clear legal mechanisms to deal strict punishments to its officers if they were found to have violated regulations.

“It's not true that our members are above the law, in many cases police officers have had to face criminal court just like civilians,” he said.

Boy insisted that the force had done its best to treat its personnel fairly.

“Our stance is clear, we punish those who are guilty, and we reward those who have made positive contributions,” he said.