Subject: Torture Widespread in Indonesian Prisons: UN Envoy [2 Reports]

also: U.N. urges Indonesia to tackle police abuses

Torture widespread in Indonesian prisons: UN envoy

JAKARTA, Nov 23 (AFP) -- Beatings and other forms of torture are entrenched in much of Indonesia's prison system, where a culture of impunity reigns, a UN envoy said Friday.

UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak said vast improvements were needed to the prison system despite Indonesia's transition to democracy since dictator Suharto stepped down in 1998.

"Although Indonesia has come a long way in overcoming the legacy of the Suharto era in establishing a functioning democracy and the rule of law and the protection of human rights, in my specific area -- torture and ill treatment -- still much needs to be done," Nowak said.

Nowak said there was no evidence of systematic torture across Indonesia's prison and police detention systems.

However the absence of a specific law against torture and poor institutional oversight meant Indonesian prisoners were "extremely vulnerable" to torture, he said in his final report from his 16-day visit.

The UN representative was given open access to 24 Indonesian detention facilities across the sprawling archipelagic nation during his stay.

Torture was often used to extract confessions at Indonesia's police detention facilities, Nowak said, noting that prisoners often stayed more than 20 days in police detention before being charged.

The dominant method of torture was beating, with a smaller number of cases of prisoners being electrocuted and shot through the leg, Nowak said.

"In all the meetings with government officials, no one could cite one case in which a police officer was ever found guilty and sentenced by a criminal court for ill treatment or other abuse of a detainee," Nowak said.

Evidence also existed of beatings against child prisoners, Nowak said.

Despite the grim picture, the UN representative said he found that torture was rare or nonexistent in some facilities, including the maximum security Nusa Kembangan island prison, which is home to the condemned Bali bombers.

He also said he heard few complaints of torture in Indonesia's restive Papua region, where activists agitating against Indonesian rule have been jailed.

The lack of mechanisms to prevent torture meant the attitude of the leadership of detention facilities determined the frequencies of abuse.

"The recommendations are clear: to fight impunity by making torture a crime; and by establishing effective independent complaints mechanisms so that perpetrators of torture can be brought to justice," Nowak said.

Indonesia is widely considered to have made significant democratic progress since the end of Suharto's oppressive 32-year rule.

However, the country's military, police and justice system have come under criticism for continued corruption and disregard for basic human rights.


U.N. urges Indonesia to tackle police abuses

By Ed Davies

JAKARTA, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Indonesia has made great strides combating rights abuses since autocratic president Suharto was ousted in 1998, but torture of detainees in police custody still appears rife, a U.N. investigator said on Friday.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture who is on a two-week tour of detention centres across Indonesia, said he had arrived at three police stations as beatings were actually in progress.

"The problem of police abuse appears to be sufficiently widespread as to warrant immediate attention," he said in a statement.

He said the types of police abuses reported, and backed up by medical examinations, included beatings by fists, rattan or wooden sticks, cables, iron bars and hammers.

In other instances, police had shot detainees in their legs from close range, or electrocuted them, he said, adding that in most cases the purpose appeared to be to extract confessions.

He urged Jakarta to speed up plans to make torture a crime and to ensure that perpetrators were brought to justice.

"In all the meetings with government officials nobody could cite one case in which a police officer was ever found guilty and sentenced by a criminal court for ill treatment or other abuse of a detainee," he told a news conference.

Nowak urged that the time a suspect could be held in police custody be limited to 48 hours, adding that detainees were more vulnerable to abuses because they were liable to spend many weeks or even months in police custody without seeing a judge.

He called for the settting up of an independent criminal investigation mechanism against alleged perpetrators of torture along with an effective complaints system.

Under Suharto's rule, which ended amid mass protests, security forces were routinely accused of abusing detainees.

Asked for his general conclusions on the situation in Indonesia now, he said: "Certainly I cannot find that torture is systematic in the country, it's systematic in a few places."

Nowak said that treatment in prisons he had visited appeared generally better, including in Papua where security forces have been accused of rights abuses. A low-level separatist insurgency has gone on for decades in the remote area.

He noted, however, serious overcrowding in Jakarta's Cipinang jail and the Pondok Bambu pre-trial detention facility.

He also expressed concern about the high death toll, often officially put down to natural causes, in some places of detention, where autopsies were rarely carried out. The U.N. investigator visited prisons, as well as police and military detention facilities in the capital Jakarta, Papua, South Sulawesi, Bali, Yogyakarta and Central Java.

He is to submit a full report on his findings to the U.N. Human Rights Council. (Editing by Roger Crabb)

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