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INDONESIA: Alleged brutal torture and sexual abuse by the Banda Raya police

February 28, 2007

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal

28 February 2007
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UA-068-2007: INDONESIA: Alleged brutal torture and sexual abuse by the Banda Raya police

INDONESIA: Sexual discrimination; torture; police brutality and corruption; sexual abuse; defunct rule-of-law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the alleged brutal torture and sexual abuse of Mr. Hartoyo, an NGO worker, and his partner Bobby while in detention, by the Banda Raya police between 22-23 January 2007 in Banda Aceh. The alleged underlying motive behind the detention, torture and sexual abuse of the victims is because they are homosexuals. We were also informed that the police made the victims to sign a statement to the Village Head Chief not to indulge in "homosexual actions again". The AHRC is deeply concerned that such brutal violence against the victims was committed without hesitation not only by the civilian attackers but also by the police whose mandate is to protect the rights of people. The AHRC calls for your urgent intervention into this case so that those responsible can be brought to justice as soon as possible. 

CASE DETAILS:

On 22 January 2007 at around 11:30pm, the victim, Mr. Hartoyo, a 32 year-old NGO worker in the Aceh province, was at home with his partner, Bobby, when two men (one of whom the victim identified as an employee of the local "Pesona" cafe below his boarding house) kicked down his front door and barged into his home, and proceeded to vandalize his property before assaulting both Mr. Hartoyo and his partner. Mr. Hartoyo and Bobby were then forced out of their home and ordered to go outside by their attackers, where a crowd of upto 15 people had gathered. The beatings and verbal abuse continued. Mr. Hartoyo specifically recalled the words of one of his attackers; "You outsiders slander us; you soil our place with your filthy tricks!".

Mr. Hartoyo was then ordered to immediately vacate the boarding house, and was marched back to his room to pack his belongings. Mr. Hartoyo's ID card and wallet were taken from him, and he was then made to squat on the ground with his partner, while his attackers deliberated on what to do next. They eventually decided to inform the local police authorities.

At around 1:30am on January 23, 4 officers arrived at the scene in an official police vehicle. Mr. Hartoyo and Bobby were then taken to the Banda Raya police station. There, both men were allegedly made to strip down to their underwear, and were then viciously beaten and verbally abused by the officers. In his testimony, Mr. Hartoyo alleges that the officers sexually abused him and then forced his partner to perform oral sex on him. Mr. Hartoyo started weeping and attempted to push his partner away, only to be kicked and scolded by the officers who took some perverse "enjoyment" out of their humiliation.

The victims were then dragged to the police station courtyard where they were made to squat on the ground in their underwear. Officers then sprayed them with ice-cold water from the courtyard hosepipe. At this point, Bobby asked the officers for permission to go to the toilet. The officers refused, and instead forced him to urinate on Mr. Hartoyo's head.

Mr. Hartoyo and his partner were then taken to a police lock-up, where they were detained until the morning. Mr. Hartoyo requested several times to contact his family to inform them of what had happened (a basic human right when facing criminal detention); each time, his request was denied.  While in his police lock-up, Mr. Hartoyo was instructed by the officers to introduce himself to the detainee who already occupied the cell. When Mr. Hartoyo innocently stated that he was a homosexual, an officer entered the cell and severely beat him. According to Mr. Hartoyo, he was treated with complete contempt by all the officers he encountered during his detention.

At around 9:00am on 23 January 2007, Mr. Hartayo was finally allowed to speak to his fellow NGO co-workers, although for not longer than five minutes. Both Mr. Hartoyo and Bobby were asked by representatives from the Aceh NGO Coalition whether they wanted to file a formal complaint; physically and mentally exhausted, both men decided not to pursue the case, and were then made to sign a statement to the Village Head Chief not to indulge in "homosexual actions again".

Said Mr. Hartayo of his ordeal; "I felt that my dignity as a human being had been trampled".


SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the relevant authorities listed below, expressing your grave concern at the bigotry and brutal conduct of the Banda Raya police in this case purely because the victims are homosexuals. 

Sample letter:

Dear __________,

INDONESIA: Alleged brutal torture and sexual abuse by the Banda Raya police

Name of victims:
1) Mr. Hartoyo, aged 32, local NGO worker at the Matahari Foundation in Aceh
2) Bobby; Mr. Hartayo's partner
Alleged perpetrators:
1) Officers attached to the Banda Raya police station in Banda Aceh
2) 16 yet unidentified civilian attackers in Banda Aceh
3)  Employee of "Pesona" Café locating below Mr. Hartayo's boarding-house in Banda Aceh
Date of incident: 22-23 January 2007
Place of incident: Mr. Hartayo's boarding-house residence in Banda Aceh; Banda Raya police station in Banda Aceh

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the alleged brutal torture and sexual abuse of Mr. Hartoyo, an NGO worker, and his partner Bobby by the Banda Raya police, during their police custody between 22-23 January 2007 in Banda Aceh. The alleged motive behind this incident is because the victims are homosexuals.   

To briefly describe the incident, at around 11:30pm on 22 January 2007, Mr. Hartoyo (32) was at home with his partner, Bobby, when two men (one of whom the victim identified as an employee of the local "Pesona) cafe below his boarding house) forcibly entered his home and proceeded to vandalize his property before assaulting both Mr. Hartoyo and his partner. The two men were then dragged outside the house to a place where a crowd of upto 15 people had gathered. They were then subjected to beatings and verbal abuse. Mr. Hartoyo was then allegedly ordered by the attackers to immediately vacate the boarding house. The attackers then inform the local police authorities.

At around 1:30am on January 23, the two victims were taken by four policemen to the Banda Raya Police Station, where they were allegedly made to strip down to their underwear, and were then viciously beaten and verbally abused by the officers. Mr. Hartoyo also alleges that the officers sexually abused him and then forced his partner to perform oral sex on him. The victims were then dragged to the police station courtyard where officers sprayed them with ice-cold water. The police also allegedly forced Bobby to urinate on Mr. Hartoyo's head.

Mr. Hartoyo and his partner were then taken to a police lock-up, where they were detained until the morning. I am concerned the fact that although Mr. Hartoyo requested several times to contact his family, which is a basic human right for detainees, each time, his request was denied. 

Finally, Mr. Hartoyo and his partner were released on the morning of January 23. However, they were made to sign a statement to the Village Head Chief not to indulge in "homosexual actions again" before their release.

I am deeply disturbed to learn of this series of events. I find the conduct of the said officers of the Banda Raya police outfit in this particular case to be cold, calculated and cruel.  This raises serious concerns about the state of policing under the current Government in Indonesia; concerns, which I assure you, will not go uninvestigated.

Torture has been outlawed under Article 4 of Legislation Number 39 of 1999 Concerning Human Rights as well as the UN Convention against Torture (CAT), to which the Indonesia is a state party. Furthermore, Article 3(3) of Legislation Number 39 of 1999 mentions, "Everyone has the right without any discrimination, to protection of human rights and obligations", while Article 2 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the Indonesia is a state party, prohibits discrimination based on distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, etc. Therefore sexual discrimination against the victims is in violation of these two legislations. 

I am particularly concerned that such brutal violence against the victims was committed without any hesitation by the police officers, whose mandate is actually to protect the rights of citizens and uphold the law and order.

Therefore, I strongly urge you to take immediate action, in ensuring that the accused Banda Raya police officers and the 16 yet unidentified civilian attackers are brought to justice as soon as possible. For this purpose, an official criminal investigation should be conducted and those responsible should be arrested immediately. Whilst the investigation is pending, the said police officers should also be suspended from service and then indicted by law. I also request you to ensure that the victims are adequately compensated for their emotional and physical trauma endured at the hands of the police.

May I once again reinstate that as a state party to the ICCPR and the CAT and as a member to the UN Human Rights Council, the Government of Indonesia has a legal and moral obligation to protect its citizens whose basic human rights have been violated, and to ensure that justice is served to those who commit the crimes. 

I look forward to your prompt and effective response in this matter.

Yours sincerely,


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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1.Mr. Abdul Rahman Saleh
Attorney General
Kejaksaan Agung RI
Jl. Sultan Hasanuddin No. 1
Jakarta Selatan
INDONESIA
Tel: + 62 21 7221337, 7397602
Fax: + 62 21 7250213

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

3. 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
INDONESIA
Fax: +62 21 525 3095

4. Mr. Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara
Chairperson
KOMNAS HAM
Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B Menteng
Jakarta Pusat 10310
INDONESIA
Tel: +62 21 3925230
Fax: +62 21 3151042/3925227 

5. Prof. Manfred Nowak
Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture
Attn: Safir Syed
c/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9230
Fax: +41 22 917 9016 (ATTN: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR TORTURE)


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)


Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
UA-068-2007
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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.