INDONESIA: A man dies in police custody following arrest


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-118-2008
ISSUES: Administration of justice, Death in custody, Police negligence, Police violence, Torture,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you that a man has died in police custody following his arrest after he was falsely accused of stealing a palm oil nut on 26 March 2008. The police officer and three unidentified companions, who had taken the victim with them, have not been subjected to any investigation. Their senior officers have already exonerated them in the absence of a thorough investigation.

CASE DETAILS: (According to information from KontraS in North Sumatera, a human rights non-governmental organization)

On March 26, Mr. Adi Sahrianto was arrested by Mr. Anjasmara Siregar, an officer from the Regional Police Station in North Sumatera on false allegations that he had stolen an oil palm nut. They blindfolded him while taking him in a car towards the Regional Police Station.

At the time of Sahrianto’s arrest, there was a violent confrontation that have taken place in the village between villagers in the Bulan Bintang village and the group of militia working for the State’s plantation Company (PTPN II) that just subsided. The confrontation was a result of their dispute over ownership of land where the villagers are occupying. Sahrianto had been working in their village as a gate keeper.

After Sahrianto’s arrest, Mr. Iqro Ramadhan, head of Juma Tombak, a local organization providing assistance to these villagers and an advocate of land disputes issues, had contacted the local police station inquiring about Sahrianto’s arrest. It was Ramadhan who had able to confirm that Sahrianto was, at the time, in police custody supposedly for charges of theft.

However, at around 10:05pm that day, the victim’s brother, Adi Syahputra, had been informed by the police that his brother had been taken to the hospital in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra Province. After hearing the information, Syahputra and Sahrianto’s family immediately proceeded to Medan. But when they arrived at the hospital, they found out Sahrianto had already died.

Sahrianto’s corpse had had traces of burns all over it. A person who had cleaned the victim’s body had also relayed to Syahputra that he had also notice several visible injuries to his brother’s corpse while he was cleaning it; for instance, bruises on his neck and back, and his head also had cuts. No autopsy report has been provided to the victim’s families that could have explained these injuries.

When Syahputra reported his brother’s deaths in police custody before the Regional Police Station of North Sumatera, the police refused to take action for reasons that they have no jurisdiction over the case. Syahputra had to make a complaint to the other police station, Deli Serdang Local Police Station.

However, the police had already exonerated themselves from any accountability in his brother’s death in absence of a thorough investigation. One of the police officers, Mr. Darmawan Sutawijaya, vice director of the Criminal Department of the North Sumatera Regional Police Station, has claimed the victim has already been suffering from severe injuries even before the police arrested him. He claimed that he had been beaten by hundreds people after he was caught stealing the palm oil nut.

Mr. Sutawijaya claimed the police had come to the village after receiving a phone call from the villagers. The police supposedly tried rescuing the victim by taking him to a hospital for medical attention but he died on his way. However, the KontraS office in North Sumatera, said that no such incident of a man beaten for theft that had taken place. Neither Sahrianto nor any villagers had been seen beaten contrary to police’s claims.

There have been strong suspicions that Sahrianto’s arrest and subsequent death had something to do with the continuing land dispute. It is reported that the police officer who arrested him, Mr. Anjasmara Siregar, was the same person whom the villagers had stopped when he tried to forcibly enter into the village. There are also allegations that he and the other men could have had connections with the company whom the villagers had in conflict with.

Disappointed with the police’s failures to investigate Sahrianto’s death thoroughly, KontraS and the villagers in Bulan Bintang held a demonstration in front of the North Sumatera’s Regional Police Station. They demanded from them to conduct a proper investigation into Sahrianto’s death.

A few days later, the Regional Police had contacted Sahrianto’s family and interviewed them regarding details of his death. A few days after that, the police arrested Perdamaian Sitepu, a member of the Pam Swakarsa. The group is a civilian militia founded by the military who had been involved in countering the student movement in 1998. However, the police officer involved, Anjasmara Siregar, have not been subjected to any investigation.

Also, the police instead had arrested Iqro Ramadhan, the person who had earlier inquired at the police’s stations and had confirmed Sahrianto’s was in their custody, for his supposed involvement in the violent confrontation between the villagers and the company’s men that happened that same day.


In 1972, the villagers who had been occupying the disputed land had been evicted from the said land by the State’s Plantation Company (PTPN II). The PTPN II had also been claiming ownership of the property. However, following the change of government in Indonesia in 1996, the villagers there were encourage to file lawsuit against the PTPN II to challenge their claims before the court.

After nine years, the villagers won the case before the Supreme Court. However, although the court had already upheld the villager’s rights owning the land, the SC did not release any court orders that could have given them legal protection and affirm their ownership over the property. As a result the villagers were force into taking their own initiative by occupying the property in 2005.

However, since then the villagers in the area had been facing continued harassment and intimidations from Pam Swakarsa. There are allegations that they were hired by the PTPN II to suppress the villagers. The villager’s anxiety had increased following Sahrianto’s deaths and that the villagers there had been experiencing continuing fear and trauma the incident may repeat again.

Please write letters to the authorities requesting their intervention to ensure the policeman and his companion are subjected to investigation. They must answer the allegations against them and that the victim’s death is ascertained by way of a credible and an effective investigation.

The AHRC has also written to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Question of Torture and the Extra-judicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions calling for an intervention in this case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ___________,

INDONESIA: Please investigate thoroughly the death of a man in police custody

Name of the victim: Adi Sahrianto of Bulan Bintang Village Deli Serdang, North Sumatera
Name of alleged perpetrators: Police officer Anjasmara Siregar of the Regional Police Station of North Sumatera province; and three other unidentified persons
Date of incident: 26 March 2008 
Place of incident: At the victim’s place

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the death of Mr. Adi Sahrianto, a gatekeeper of a disputed property in Bulan Bintang Village, while in police custody after having been arrested over false allegations of theft.

Sahrianto was last seen alive together with the police officer, whose name is mentioned above, and his three other unidentified companions. They had him blindfolded while being taken into a car towards the police station. His colleague, Mr. Iqro Ramadhan, had likewise had been also been able to confirm that the victim was indeed with the policemen following his arrest over allegations that he had stolen an oil palm, when he made at inquiry at their office.

However later in the evening that day, Sahrianto’s family had been informed by the policemen that he had been taken to a hospital in Medan. They, however, were never given sufficient explanation about circumstances of the victim’s death. I have learned though that the victim’s corpse have had traces of burns all over his body, his neck and back bruised and his head suffered cuts.

It is disappointing that despite this the police and other concerned authorities have continuously been unable to ensure his deaths is effectively investigated, particularly his brother and relatives claims he could have been severely tortured while he was police custody. His injuries, as what they have seen, are so severe that it is very unlikely that he died from natural illness or they were not deliberate.

Also, it is disappointing that instead of acting promptly on the victim’s relatives complaint, the Regional Police Station of North Sumatera, where the police officer involved is also attached, had refused to take action on pretext that they have no jurisdiction over the case. But when the relatives filed the complaint with the Deli Serdang Local Police Station, the police also did not investigate thoroughly. The police’ unwillingness to take prompt action in this case is unacceptable. I am aware that the police officer involved and his companions have also not been subjected to any investigation.

Instead, Mr. Darmawan Sutawijaya, vice director of the Criminal Department of the North Sumatera’s Regional Police Station, had exonerated the police officer and his companion involved, in absence of an impartial and credible investigation. They, too, had rejected the victim’s relatives suspicion that he could have been severely tortured in police custody which caused his death.

The police, in exonerating their men, had also claimed the victim have already been suffering from severe injuries even before his arrest. They said that he had been beaten by hundreds of villagers for stealing an oil palm before the policemen came; however it is reported that no such incident had actually taken place. The police own interpretation of the victim’s injuries is also never supported with any sufficient medical proof to explain the cause of death.

In light of the above, I urge you to conduct a proper investigation regarding this case and ensure that the perpetrators involved are held to account. The authorities must also exhaust all means to ascertain the circumstance behind the victim’s death, by way of the forensic method of investigation. The policeman and his companions involved must be subjected to a credible investigation without delay. The victim family too should be afforded with appropriate compensation for the victim’s deaths.

I would also like to draw your attention that the government of Indonesia is a party to the International Convention against Torture (CAT). Therefore it has had obligations to comply into conducting inquiries on allegations of torture. In addition, I take this opportunity urging you to take adequate steps to prevent and eradicate torture; for instance by enacting law criminalizing torture.

Yours sincerely,


1. Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudoyono
Republic of Indonesia
Presidential Palace
Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara
Jakarta Pusat 10010
Fax: + 62 21 231 41 38, 345 2685, 345 7782
Tel: + 62 21 3845627 ext 1003

2. Mr. Hendarman Supandji
Attorney General
Kejaksaan Agung RI
Jl. Sultan Hasanuddin No. 1
Jakarta Selatan
Fax: + 62 21 7250213
Tel: + 62 21 7221337, 7397602
E-mail :

3. Gen. Sutanto
Chief of National Police
Jl. Trunojoyo No. 3
Jakarta Selatan
Fax: +62 21 720 7277
Tel: +62 21 721 8012

4. Mr. Hamid Awaluddin
Minister of Justice and Human Rights 
Uahi Utoyo Usman S.H. 
Menteri Kehkiman
JI. H.R. Rosuna Said Kav. 6-7
Kuningan, Jakarta Selatan
Fax: +62 21 525 3095

5. Mr. Ifdhal Kasim
KOMNAS HAM (National Human Rights Commission)
Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B Menteng
Jakarta Pusat 10310
Fax: +62 21 3151042/3925227
Tel: +62 21 3925230

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-118-2008
Countries : Indonesia,
Issues : Administration of justice, Death in custody, Police negligence, Police violence, Torture,