Subject: JP Op-Ed: Indonesia Needs Laws Against Torture
The Jakarta Post
November 22, 2008
Laws Against Torture Needed
Ricky Gunawan, Jakarta
On Jan. 22, 2007, Hartoyo was at home with his partner, Bobby (not his real name), when two men forcibly entered his house and proceeded to vandalize his property before assaulting the two men. Hartoyo and Bobby were then dragged outside to a place where a crowd of around 15 people had gathered. They were subjected to beatings and verbal abuse. Hartoyo was ordered by the attackers to immediately vacate the boarding house. The attackers then informed the local police authorities.
The two victims were taken by four police officers to the Banda Raya Police Station where they were made to strip down to their underwear and were viciously beaten and verbally abused by the officers. The police officers later sexually abused Hartoyo and then forced his partner to perform oral sex on him. The two were then dragged to the police station courtyard where officers sprayed them with ice-cold water.
The police also forced Bobby to urinate on Hartoyo's head. Hartoyo and his partner were then taken to a police lockup, where they were held until morning.
This ruthless, inhuman and barbaric torture has been a cavernous trauma for Hartoyo. Furthermore, this abysmal event scars Indonesia's face of humanity.
More than a year later, in October 2008, the case was finally tried by the Banda Aceh District Court. However, as the court regarded the torture merely as a minor offense, there was only one judge hearing the case.
During the trial, the judge did not examine the acts of torture but rather focused on Hartoyo's sexual orientation. The judge advised him to turn away from sin, giving the impression that it was permissible for the perpetrators to beat and assault the victims because of their different sexual orientation.
In about 30 minutes, the judge had made his decision: The four perpetrators were sentenced to three months' imprisonment with six months of probation and a fine of Rp 1,000.
Given that the case was tried as a minor offense, the verdict was final and binding -- leaving no hope for the victim to appeal.
Hartoyo's case is only one example of how the Indonesian legal apparatus treats this kind of torture. The court obviously treats the "common enemies of all mankind and all nations" nicely and inadequately by ruling they only committed a minor offense.
From this case, we can also draw the conclusion that torture creates double standards within the state institutions, especially the police and judiciary. How is it possible that such severe violence took place in this very modern day and the perpetrators received a very light punishment?
This case demonstrates how the absence of laws on torture resulted in no justice for the victims of torture. The absence of laws on torture denies victims and their families any avenue for justice and redress. The right to redress and compensation for grievances wreaked by the State is a fundamental principle of the Convention against Torture, to which Indonesia is a party. Indonesia, which does not provide a legal remedy for such unspeakable acts, is also violating its international obligation imposed under the Convention.
Reports from many national and international human rights groups show there have never been investigations into cases of torture and other ill-treatment, and where victims have been reluctant to submit a complaint to the relevant authorities. Even if the perpetrators were convicted, they were not convicted under the laws on torture. Definitely, there is a problem in dealing with torture in Indonesia.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has recommended that for a country such as Indonesia, there is a crucial need for an independent national authority, such as a national commission or ombudsman with investigatory and/or prosecutorial powers, which should be immediately established to receive and to investigate complaints on torture cases.
Complaints about torture should be dealt with without further delay and should also be investigated by an independent authority with no connection to that which is investigating or prosecuting the case against the alleged victim. Wherever a person has a plausible complaint of having been tortured by the police or military officers, it too entails the notion of an effective remedy.
Without establishing a proper, impartial and effective accountability mechanism to investigate torture cases as well as enacting domestic laws on torture, there will be more cases like Hartoyo's in the near future. Indonesia's tortured commitment, apparently, is dragging the country into a tortured nation.
The writer is the Program Director of the Community Legal Aid Institute. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org