ASIA: Women’s views on prevention of torture – Interview 9 

An interview conducted by the Asian Human Rights Commission. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC.

INDONESIA: Interview with a human rights lawyer

Putri Kanesia is a human rights lawyer who lives in Jakarta, Indonesia. She has spent her last four years working on human rights issue as a staff member of The Commission of ‘The Disappeared’ and Victims of Violence (KontraS) after she previously joint the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta).

What do you think of the policing system in Indonesia?

Compared to previous years, the policing condition in Indonesia is much better these days. This can be seen in the fact that Chief of Indonesian National Police, Mr. Bambang Hendarso Danuri, enacted Police Regulation No. 8 year 2009 regarding the Implementation of Human Rights Principles and Standards in the Discharge of Duties of the Indonesian National Police. This should be appreciated because the substance of this regulation is very good. Unfortunately, until now this regulation still has not be fully implemented. Last year, I had an audience with Criminal Investigation Bureau of Indonesian Police Headquarters and they admitted that it’s still difficult to implement this regulation for budget reasons. There are so many police stations in Indonesia and it’s difficult for them to disseminate and socialise this regulation. There are still a lot of police officers who don’t even know that this regulation exists.

What do you think of police use of torture? Is it good or bad?

For sure, there is nothing good about the police’s use of torture. It violates human rights. The Right to not be tortured is an inherent right which cannot be derogated in any conditions. Indonesia has ratified the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) by Law No. 5/1998 but unfortunately the signing has not been followed up by the police and government’s effort to prevent torture. Torture, which is a very old-fashioned investigation method, is still used by police in Indonesia. It seems to me that Indonesian police still think torture is the only way to get confessions from suspects because torture can create such fear that the suspects will ‘be honest’. Unfortunately, this is what happened in many cases which were advocated by me and KontraS. A lot of suspects finally ‘confessed’ to having committed crime which had never been done.

However, there is one good example of an investigation method that I’ve found in Palembang police station in South Sumatra. Instead of using torture, police use lie detectors to get information from suspects. Again, regrettably, not all police stations have this lie detector facility, maybe only in some places. Police officers have themselves said that there is no easier way to get information from suspects other than through the use of torture. I think it’s because they want to get the information ‘instantly’.

Why do you think it happens? Why do they think like that? Is there anything wrong with the police education?

Even though today, police in Indonesia is separated from the National Military, in my understanding the military characteristic in police education is still very strong. They still learn how to use violence which makes the police officers use violence when they exercise their duties.

What is your idea of a good relationship between police and citizens?

The motto of the Indonesian National Police is ‘to serve and to protect’ and I think this is how it should be. Thus, when society needs police protection, the police should protect them. I think that is the ideal concept of police-citizens relationship. However, this concept is not implemented now. For example, instead of taking a thief to police, many people these days tend to judge him by themselves. People beat the thief, undress, burn, and in some cases even kill him. What does that mean? It means that society has no more trust in the police. So when I think ‘how it should be’ and ‘the reality,’ they don’t match up.

If you have a problem, would you feel safe going to the police to complain?

First, I think it’s important to remember that we can’t generalise that all police is bad. There are bad police officers, but good police officers also exist. The police did their job well in some cases advocated by me and KontraS. I have never had any legal problems but as a human rights lawyer I often go to police stations and see problems faced by people who are filing complaints with the police. There are times when people feel that the existence of police is useful, that is when the police take and follow up their complaints seriously. However, there are also times when the police become passive and do nothing to follow up the complaint. In some cases, the police impose the burden of proof on the complainant even though it’s the police’s obligation. This is of course a problem because before someone files complaint to police, the person has to find the evidence and witnesses by herself; she has to prepare money and so on and so forth if she wants their complaint to be seriously followed up. This makes people think several times before finally they file complaint to police. But again we can’t generalise it. It doesn’t always happen.

Is there any domestic violence law in your country? If yes, is it well implemented?

Indonesia has a specific law on Domestic Violence Law, which is Law No. 23/2004 regarding the Elimination of Domestic Violence. I think we can fairly say that this law is quite good because it has a deterrent effect. Punishment for this offence is more severe than for ordinary violence which is regulated in Indonesian Penal Code. Domestic Violence Law is the lex specialis, specific law, of the Penal Code.

However in the implementation of the Domestic Violence Law itself, we found some obstacles. One of the obstacles is that if someone wants to file domestic violence complaint to police, she also has to make a statement that she wants to divorce her husband. Thus if a woman files a domestic violence complaint to the police then she also has to be ready with the consequence that her marriage with her husband will be ended. This has become a problem because it often happens that a woman files a complaint to the police but one week later she will withdraw it because she does not want to divorce her husband. By filing a complaint to the police, they want to create deterrent effect to their husbands, not divorce them. This is one of the reasons why it can be a dilemma for women to file domestic violence cases.

So the law itself actually is good, but because this divorce requirement exists, many people withdraw their complaints. Once I had an opportunity to talk with a police officer from the Women and Children Services Unit and she said for that very reason, usually police won’t process a domestic violence complaint swiftly. Usually they will wait for one week and ask the complainant again whether they really want to continue with the legal process or not. I think the obligation for complainants in domestic violence cases to make a statement that they will divorce their husband or wife has prevented the Domestic Violence Law from being implemented effectively.

Do the police treat women different from men? In what way?

In Indonesian police stations, there is a unit named the Women and Children Services Unit. It’s not only for domestic violence cases but also for any case where the victims or perpetrators are women. So women victims or perpetrators will be investigated and questioned by police women, and in this sense they treated differently. This is a good thing but unfortunately not every police station has this special unit. We can find this unit only in District Police and Regional Police stations, not in the Sub-District Police Stations. In Jakarta itself, only the Kelapa Gading Sub-District has the Women and Children Service Unit within their office. Of course this is a problem because if a female complainant files a complaint to sub-district police station -which doesn’t have such unit- she will be questioned by policemen whose gender perspective is often very bad. For example, in rape cases it often happens that police ask the rape victim: “So, you have been raped. How do you feel? Did it feel good?” For the rape victim, of course such questions make them feel like they are being raped for the second time. So it’s a good thing if Women and Children Service Units exist in police stations but unfortunately it’s still limited, only in District Police and Regional Police stations.

In what way do women suffer differently from human rights violations related to the police, as compared to men?

Let’s take examples from narcotics cases. In narcotics cases, usually the male suspects will be tortured, extorted, etc. But for female cases, usually they will face sexual harassment. This is not only about different treatment between men and women but more important, it is about the women’s dignity. Not only will women face sexual harassment, the women herself also often becomes the object of torture. There was a case which was advocated by KontraS in Lampung. A woman was arrested for a crime committed by her husband. She didn’t do anything related to the case, but because her husband escaped, the police arrested her. She was brought from Lampung in Sumatra Island, to Jakarta which is located in different island, Java Island. During her way from Lampung to Jakarta, the police didn’t stop electrifying her.

In some cases, women are also used by police as ‘bait’ to catch the real perpetrator who is their husband. I see this as ‘indirect’ violence which is faced by women. Or just like in terrorism cases, wives of terrorist members who wear burkha often also arrested and named as terrorists. I think it’s also a human rights violation faced by women.

Is it more difficult or easier or the same for a women to file a complaint against a policeman, compared to a man filing the complaint?

Regarding complaint mechanism, I think it’s just the same either for women or men. As I have mentioned before, the problem of complaint mechanism to police in Indonesia is that often the burden of proof is imposed on the complainant, regardless the gender of the complainant. So I think the problem faced by men or women in filing complaint to police are just the same.

Is there any more information you want to tell us?

Yes. I just want to add a bit more. Indonesia now has the Freedom of Information Law which obligates every public institution to provide information to the public. From all public institutions in Indonesia, the Indonesian National Police is the institution which gives the most positive response on the enactment of the Freedom of Information Law. In May this year, the Indonesian National Police enacted a Standard Operational Procedure on Freedom of Information which obligates them to share any public information related to police work and institution. So with the existence of this Standard Operational Procedure, information regarding cases, budgetary of police, etc, should be shared to public. There are some exceptions, of course. For example, information won’t be shared if it can disrupt an investigation process. This is also one thing we have to appreciate.

Currently, KontraS also is conducting joint-research with the Indonesian National Police on the internal mechanism of police. For all this time, if there’s a torture case, the perpetrator will be processed through the police’s internal mechanisms. We have never known what actually happens there, what the mechanism is, and whether they are punished or not. Through this research, we would like to find out how internal mechanism of the police works. And so far their response is good. So, instead of only criticizing the police we also want to find out what the problems are within the policing institution.

Have KontraS or you tried to use this Standard Operational Procedure to get any information from the police?

Usually the enactment of the Standard Operational Procedure of police institution will be followed by the enactment of Chief of Indonesian National Police Regulation which regulates same thing. Up to now, the draft of the Chief of Indonesian National Police Regulation on Freedom of Information itself is there but it has not been signed by the Chief of Police. So we can’t see whether it will be able effectively implemented or not yet.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-105-2010
Countries : Indonesia,
Issues : Police negligence, Police violence, Torture, Violence against women,