Subject: Human Rights Watch Outraged Over RI Minsitry of Justice and Human Rights Decision Not to Investigate Alleged Torture of Prisoners in Papua

also JP Editorial: Shedding a tortuous legacy

The Jakarta Globe

June 13, 2009

Rights Group Irked Over Ministry’s Lack of Probe

by Nivell Rayda

US-based Human Rights Watch expressed outrage on Friday over the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights’ decision not to investigate the alleged torture of prisoners at a state penitentiary in Abepura, Papua.

Last week, the watchdog reported two dozen cases of alleged torture, violence and abuse at the prison, but Untung Sugiono, the director general for penitentiary affairs at the ministry, told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday that they would not be responding to the allegations from the group.

“Untung should go to Abepura and interview the prisoners,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, adding that he was outraged that the director general had refused to open an investigation based on the warden’s letter alone.

Human Rights Watch reported that the incidents of torture began shortly after Anthonius Ayorbaba, a former official at the Jayapura office of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, became the prison warden in August 2008.

Untung said that the ministry had already checked on the allegations with its office in Papua.

The warden, he said, submitted a complete chronology of what happened and that several witnesses had confirmed the warden’s story.

“He should see for himself how a prisoner lost his right eye after being hit by a set of keys,” Adams said, “how another prisoner got severe burns on his hands after being forced to put them into a pot of boiling water, or how a prisoner partially lost his hearing after being hit in the head by a wrench.”

He added that his group would write to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to ask for an independent fact-finding team to verify the alleged abuses .


The Jakarta Post | Fri, 06/12/2009 | Opinion

Editorial: Shedding a tortuous legacy

To get clean water, move to another cell and pay up. To get your wife to visit, pay to use the front room. To get a permit to boil water and light a match, pay again.

These are the common secrets of prisons around the city, which have circulated for decades. What happens in detention centers miles away from here? No one knows, and even less care.

This is the main challenge for the convicts and the few human rights advocates who do care; in this case those hollering right now about allegations of torture behind bars near the capital of Papua, Jayapura.

In early May, the Human Rights Watch reported a few dozen cases of abuse in the Abepura prison, in which over 200 inmates are mostly those charged with involvement in the rebel movement, such as being caught waving the flag of the Free Papua Movement.

The government “needs to put an end to this disgraceful behavior, punish those responsible,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in reference to the alleged abuse.

Access to information about Papua is not easy. Foreign monitors and journalists are not allowed; in March representatives of the International Red Cross were thrown out. The main reason why these circumstances continue is the above ­ that few care about it. There is not an inch of curiosity or rage about Papua that can match that displayed by the uproar when a young wife is thrown in jail for her email complaining about a hospital just outside the capital. No matter how many thousands of fellow citizens may have been killed in the past by military operations against suspected rebels.

Foreigners wonder why Indonesians show little interest in human rights violations in Papua. They are oblivious to the fact that our “patriotic” education has led many of us to notice only when a rebel flag is reportedly flying impudently in the face of our soldiers and law enforcers, dispatched to out-of-the-way locations, to watch out for any perceived threat to the sacred heritage of the nation state. Many of us remain ignorant of the various international human rights conventions ratified by our own lawmakers, so we stick to the outdated mindset that any foreigner with nothing better to do than shout about alleged abuses, probably only has the single purpose of trashing our good name.

Within a bullying culture, civilians here have also been brought up to appreciate heavy handed measures to anyone “who deserves it”. Thus we sneer at the brouhaha over Guantanamo, under the auspices of the United States, supposedly the world’s human rights champion. We fight passionately for the rights of relatives in prison ­ only when detainees and convicts are one of our own.

Even the knowledge that we ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture 10 years ago would likely invite a mocking glance, meaning that many of the fine legal instruments we have introduced are considered to be political must-haves to win respect in the global community. Still, ratification is the first step.

A generation or two later, hopefully Indonesians can be truly known as people who have gone through reformasi ­ reforming themselves out of a brutal culture, masked by those famous smiles for the tourists.

Shedding this legacy would also mean being able to understand that no-one deserves torture for expressing a wish to separate from us, and knowing why we amended the Constitution to protect freedom of expression.

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