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INDONESIA: A young man died suspiciously in custody after illegal arrest

February 16, 2012


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-028-2012

17 February 2012

INDONESIA: A young man died suspiciously in custody after illegal arrest

ISSUES: Arbitrary detention; extrajudicial killing; right to life; corruption

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been informed that Yusli, a 23-year old man, died while in custody of the Cisauk sub-district police station, Tangerang, Indonesia on 26 December 2011. Several wounds and bruises were found on Yusli’s body, in addition to a shot wound on his chest. The police claimed that Yusli was escaping, so they had to shoot him. However, the reasons for his arrest remain unclear as no arrest warrant was produced.


According to the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), on 26 December 2011, at 3am, three persons carrying long rifles came to Yusli’s house in Bogor, West Java. For unknown reasons, they hit and handcuffed Yusli, and dragged him to a car in which a fourth person was waiting. Yusli’s father-in-law, who was at the location of the arrest, chased them to the car, but failed to stop them from taking Yusli away. (photo: Yusli, courtesy of Yusli's family)

Yusli’s family later visited several sub-district police stations, including those in Rumpin, Cisauk, Pademangan, Legok, Gunung Sindur, Serpong and Ciputat in order to find Yusli. All the police officers in all those police stations stated that they did not know anything about Yusli or his arrest. They also informed the family that Yusli’s arrest was illegal as no arrest warrant was given to Yusli and no copy given to the family. According to these police officers, the arrest should also have been informed to the head of the local community.

Around 5pm on the same day, the community head of the Mekarsari sub-district, Mr. E. Jurjani, informed Yusli’s family that Yusli had died and his body was at the Kramat Jati hospital. Mr. Jurjani gave them Rp 2.000.000,00 (around USD 222) ‘as a form of sympathy’, a highly unusual act by a head of sub-district in responding to a death. The amount of money given was also suspicious. While Mr. Jurjani gave no further information about Yusli’s death, he asked the family to sign a blank letter, allegedly to be used as a statement confirming that the family will keep silent and not take any action on this matter. Yusli’s family refused to sign the letter.

On the following day, the family came to the hospital. At the mortuary, a man whose name sounds like Sakbani introduced himself to the family as a police officer working in the Cisauk sub-district police station. He mentioned that his friends and the chief of the Cisauk sub-district police station, Kemidjo, arrested Yusli. According to him, Yusli was attempting to escape so the police had to shoot him.

The family later saw Yusli’s dead body and found an injury on his head which looked like it was bleeding. Claw marks were found on his right chest, while a shot wound was seen on his left chest (heart). The family also found lacerations on his face and several bruises on his forehead, chin, hands and body.

As the family had doubts about the alleged cause of Yusli’s death, they immediately reported this case to the Tangerang district police. A man later approached them at Yusli’s funeral and gave them Rp 3.000.000,00 (around USD 333). He mentioned that the money was a form of sympathy from Mr. Kemidjo, the Chief of the Cisauk sub-district police. He also mentioned that Mr. Kemidjo had left money with Mr. Jurjani, and asked whether the family had received it.

On 2 January 2012, the family reported the case to the police’s Division of Profession and Security (Propam). On 31 January 2012, Propam informed the family by phone that the case had been referred to Propam at the Jakarta Metropolitan police.

On January 3, the Tangerang district police sent a letter to the family informing that they have chosen two police officers from economy division, who usually deal with business crimes, as the investigators of the case. On January 16, the Tangerang district police sent a notification letter regarding the development of investigation (SP2HP), stating that they had examined four members of the Cisauk sub-district police station as witnesses. These four police officers were Sutrisna, Aan Triharianto, Ricky Ananta Sembiring, and Hermanto. The Tangerang district police also informed the family that they were planning to question Mr. Kemidjo, but no further information regarding this examination is known until today. The last update obtained by Yusli’s family regarding the investigation was that Yusli died in a research centre for science and technology (Puspiptek) in Tangerang, to which access is very restricted, mentioned on January 25 by one of the investigators, Djarot Sudarsono.

The Tangerang district police officers did not show the family the medical certificate regarding Yusli’s death (visum et repertum) despite the family’s repeated requests for it. Yusli's father-in-law then reported that he was able to identify one of the perpetrators as one of the members of the Cisauk Sector Police. The Tangerang Police however, took no further action upon this evidence. Yusli’s family is still ignorant about the reason for his alleged arrest, despite the fact that article 18 paragraph (3) of the Indonesian Criminal Procedure Code obliges the police to give a copy of the arrest warrant to the family. The police told the media that Yusli was arrested for motorcycle theft, but according to his family, Yusli had earlier been sentenced to 10 months imprisonment for motorcycle fencing and was released on 18 August 2011.


A well established jurisprudence of the UN Human Rights Committee, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American human rights system has clearly stated that the physical integrity and welfare of persons held in police custody is the responsibility of the state, as such persons are of its exclusive preserve. The failure of the state to protect the life of persons held in custody, therefore, is a violation of the right to life as guaranteed in article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Furthermore, the right to life as enshrined in the ICCPR obliges the state to conduct an independent, prompt and effective investigation into any deaths in custody cases. The burden of proof in these cases lies on the government. In this case for instance, it is up to the police to provide adequate proof that the shooting towards Yusli was reasonable, proportionate and necessary.

However, even if Yusli was really trying to escape, the police decision to shoot him was not in accordance with the law. According to the Head of Indonesian National Police Regulation No. 1 Year 2009 on the Use of Force, an attempt to escape from the police is classified as an ‘active conduct’ which should be responded by police without any arms or weapons.

Please write to the listed authorities below urging a proper, independent and prompt investigation of this case. Any persons who are responsible in the death of Yusli should be adequately punished according to law and the family should be given proper compensation.

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions calling for his intervention into this matter.

To support this urgent appeal, please click here:


Dear ___________,

INDONESIA: A young man died suspiciously in custody after illegal arrest

Name of victims: Yusli (male, 23-year old)
Names of alleged perpetrators: Four Cisauk sub-district police officers and Mr. Kemidjo, the chief of Cisauk sub-district police station
Date of incident: 26 December 2011
Place of incident: The research centre for science and technology (Puspiptek) area, Tangerang

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the death of Yusli, a 23-year old man, while in police custody on 26 December 2011. According to the information from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), several injuries were found on Yusli’s dead body. His family reported that his head looked like it was bleeding and claw marks were found on his right chest. A shot wound was also found on his left chest. Moreover, the family found lacerations on his face as well as several bruises on his forehead, chin, hands and body.

I was informed that, on 26 December 2011, Yusli was at his house when three men carrying long rifles came and took him away in a car driven by another man. Having no idea where Yusli was taken, his family visited several police stations in order to find him. Yet these attempts turned out to be pointless.

The family was later told by Mr. Jurjani, the community head of Mekarsari sub-district, that Yusli had died and his body was at the Kramat Jati hospital. Mr. Jurjani gave no further explanation regarding Yusli’s death, but he did give the family Rp 2.000.000,00 (about USD 222) ‘to show his sympathy’. He also asked the family to sign a blank letter which allegedly would be used for a statement saying that the family would not take any actions regarding this matter. The family refused to sign however. Later, at Yusli’s funeral, the family was also offered Rp 3.000.000,00 (approximately USD 333) from a man who said the money was to show sympathy from Kemidjo, the chief of Cisauk sub-district police station. The same man also asked the family if they have received some money from Mr. Jurjani.

When the family was visiting Kramat Jati hospital where Yusli’s body was kept, they met a man who claimed to be a police officer of the Cisauk sub-district police station. The man told the family that it was his friends and the chief of the Cisauk sub-district police, Kemidjo, who arrested Yusli. He also informed them that Yusli was trying to escape so the police had to shoot him. The family did not believe this story and reported the case to the police’s Division of Profession and Security (Propam) which later informed them that the case is being investigated.

However, I would like to question the investigation process as it was reported by Yusli’s family as ‘unusual’. I received the information that the investigators for this case are from the economy division, who usually deal with business crime. I believe it is essential to ensure that the police officers appointed in this case are qualified and well trained so that the investigation process can run effectively. I was also told that the police did not take any further action to Yusli’s father-in-law saying that he could identify one of the kidnappers as a member of the Cisauk sub-district police. As of today, the family is still ignorant to the reasons for Yusli’s arrest, as they never received any copy of the arrest warrant. They only heard in the media that Yusli was charged due to motorcycle theft. Yet according to the family, Yusli had been previously convicted for such crime and served his sentence. He was released on 18 August 2011.

I request you to ensure that Yusli’s family gets a proper explanation regarding Yusli’s arrest. I believe you are aware that according to article 18 paragraph (3) of the Indonesian Criminal Procedure Code, the family of an arrested person should be provided a copy of the arrest warrant. It is shameful that even after his death Yusli’s family still does not know why he was arrested.

I further would like to remind you that Indonesia has the responsibility over the physical integrity as well as the welfare of any persons held in police custody. Should anything happen to them, it is the obligation of the government to prove that it has taken all necessary measures to protect the life of arrested and detained persons. Without this, it amounts to the violation of the right to life as enshrined in article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Indonesia is a state party. Furthermore, article 6 obliges the government to ensure that any unusual death in custody should be investigated independently, effectively and promptly.

The information that the police shot Yusli as he was trying to escape from police custody is questionable. Even if this were true, I am aware that the police are not supposed to use firearms to prevent his escape. The Head of Indonesian Police Regulation No. 1 Year 2009 regarding The Use of Force classifies an attempt to escape from the police as an ‘active conduct’ which should be responded only with empty-handed force and not with shooting live ammunition.

In this regard, I would like to ask you as the relevant authorities in Indonesia to ensure that a criminal investigation into Yusli’s death is conducted independently, effectively and promptly. Should the persons allegedly responsible for his death be convicted, they must be punished adequately in accordance with the law. The investigation should be focused not only on Yusli’s death, but also on corruption—regarding the reports saying the police had given money to the family. I would also like to call for Yusli’s family to be given adequate compensation and, equally important, the truth regarding what actually happened to Yusli.

Yours sincerely,



1. Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudoyono
President of the Republic of Indonesia
Jl. Veteran No. 16
Jakarta Pusat
Tel: +62 21 386 3777, 350 3088
Fax: +62 21 344 2223

2. Prof. Harkristuti Harkrisnowo
General Director of Human Rights
Ministry of Justice and Human Rights
Jl. HR Rasuna Said Kav. C-1 Kuningan
Jakarta Selatan 12920
Tel: +62 21 252 1344
Fax: +62 21 45555 5676
E-mail: info@ham.go.id

3. Gen. Timur Pradopo
Chief of Indonesian National Police
Jl. Trunojoyo No. 3
Jakarta Selatan
Tel: +62 21 721 8012
Fax: +62 21 720 7277
E-mail: polri@polri.go.idinfo@polri.go.id

4. Ir. Gen. Dr. Untung S. Rajab
Head of Jakarta Metropolitan Police
Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav. 55
Jakarta Selatan 12190
Tel: +62 21 523 4001
Fax: +62 21 570 8022
E-mail: metro@metro.polri.go.id

5. Mr. Ifdhal Kasim
KOMNAS HAM (National Human Rights Commission)
Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B Menteng
Jakarta Pusat 10310
Tel:+62 21 3925 230
Fax: +62 21 3151042/3925227
E-mail: info@komnasham.or.id

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.