A UN panel said on Friday that Indonesian police and military forces are allegedly engaging in widespread torture, and it urged the world's largest Muslim country to punish the abuse of prisoners.
Indonesia “should take immediate steps to prevent acts of torture and ill-treatment throughout the country, and to announce a zero-tolerance policy on any ill-treatment or torture by state officials,” the UN Committee against Torture said.
The panel of 10 independent experts, which reviews adherence to the 1984 international anti-torture treaty, cited “numerous, ongoing, credible and consistent allegations” of abuse in Indonesia.
Police practice torture “especially to extract confessions or information to be used in criminal proceedings,” while security forces and paramilitary groups employ “widespread torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” in military operations against rebellious provinces, the committee said.
In its report to the committee, Indonesia described its commitment to the global ban on torture as “unwavering” and said its courts had adopted a broad view of torture that went beyond international standards.
But the UN panel said credible allegations of torture and prisoner mistreatment committed by Indonesian law enforcement, military or intelligence services are “seldom investigated and prosecuted.”
“Perpetrators are rarely convicted or otherwise sentenced to lenient penalties which are not in accordance with the grave nature of their crimes,” it said. “No state official alleged to have perpetrated torture has been found guilty.”
The committee said Indonesian police investigations rely heavily on confessions as a form of evidence for prosecution, which may promote torture. It criticized Indonesia for failing to say that confessions extracted under torture cannot be used in court proceedings.
“Criminal convictions require evidence other than the confession of the detainee,” the Geneva-based body said.
It also criticized police for failing to bring prisoners promptly before a judge, noting that they can first be held in custody for up to two months. Some detainees are never registered, it said.
On the armed forces’ behavior, the panel said military and “sweep” operations have been particularly abusive in places such as Papua, Aceh and other provinces that have suffered from conflict.
It also noted the high incidence of rape by military personnel in conflict areas, which it called a form of torture. Rape complaints in Indonesia need to be confirmed by two witnesses, making legal action much more difficult.
The panel’s report of “concluding observations” was released after two days of hearings with Indonesian officials.
The country was commended for raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12, but the panel said children as young as eight were still being sentenced to jail terms or corporal punishment for minor offenses.