Subject: UN body criticizes 'widespread' torture by Indonesian police, military [2 Reports]

also: U.N. body says torture widespread in Indonesia

UN body criticizes 'widespread' torture by Indonesian police, military

By BRADLEY S. KLAPPER Associated Press Writer

GENEVA, May 16 (AP) - A U.N. panel said 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," said the U.N. Committee against Torture.

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 goes beyond international standards.

But the U.N. 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 heavily rely 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, the panel added. Lawyers and independent doctors have only restricted access rights.

On the Indonesian 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.

In Aceh province, the criminal code allows corporal punishment for various offenses, and enforcement is under the authority of a "morality police" known as the "Wilayatul Hisbah," that is not necessarily supervised by national authorities, the committee said. Prisoners are presumed guilty and then publicly humiliated through flogging, caning or other abusive methods. The body said punishments seem to be disproportionately meted out to women.

The panel's 14-page report of "concluding observations" was released after two days of hearings with Indonesian officials.

The Asian country was commended for raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12, but the panel said children as young as 8 were still being sentenced to jail terms or corporal punishment for minor offenses. They are sometimes held captive with adult prisoners.


U.N. body says torture widespread in Indonesia

By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA, May 16 (Reuters) - Indonesia's police, armed forces and intelligence services routinely torture and degrade criminal suspects to extract confessions, with almost total impunity for those responsible, a United Nations rights body said on Friday.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture said it was "deeply concerned about numerous ongoing credible and consistent allegations" of abuse in the Indonesian justice system.

Military officials and "morality police" were also found to use disproportionate force and violence, particularly against women, in the Aceh province and other areas of conflict, the 10-member independent panel said in a report released in Geneva.

It cited "grave concerns over the climate of impunity for perpetrators of acts of torture, including military, police and other state officials, particularly those holding senior position."

"No state official alleged to have perpetrated torture has been found guilty," the committee said in its 14-page findings, which are not legally binding but carry diplomatic weight.

The report expounded upon the concerns raised in November by U.N. torture expert Manfred Nowak, who said torture of detainees in Indonesian police custody was rife despite efforts to combat rights abuses after the ouster of autocratic president Suharto.


The U.N. panel called on Jakarta to take immediate steps to uphold legal safeguards for those taken into custody, including ensuring all detained suspects get the right to access a lawyer, notify a relative, be informed of the charges laid against them and be brought before a judge in a timely manner.

It told Indonesia to "ensure that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment are promptly, effectively and impartially investigated and that the perpetrators are prosecuted and convicted in accordance with the gravity of these acts.

The committee added state officials should publicly announce a zero-tolerance policy for perpetrators of acts of torture and support prosecution.

Particular concern was raised about "morality police" in Aceh -- riven by separatist violence for decades before a peace pact in 2005 -- which the panel said had an undefined jurisdiction and unclear supervision by public or state institutions.

"The necessary legal fundamental safeguards do not exist for persons detained by such officials, including the absence of a right to legal counsel, the apparent presumption of guilt, the execution of punishment in public, and the use of physically abusive methods (flogging, caning, etc)," it said.

"The punishments meted out by this policing body have a disproportionate impact on women," the committee added, also raising alarm over a high incidence of rape and sexual violence committed by the military in conflict areas, and sexual abuse and forced labour against female migrant workers in the country.

The U.N. panel stressed that attacks on ethnic and religious minorities remained a problem in Indonesia, a former Dutch colony that is home to the world's largest Muslim population.

It further called on Jakarta to fully cooperate with international efforts to investigate, prosecute and extradite those responsible for abuses in East Timor, a former Indonesian territory that became independent in 2002. (Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Janet Lawrence)

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