HRW Press Release: Indonesia Should Investigate Abusive Prison Guards in Papua [+AP] PDF Afdrukken

Human Rights Watch (New York)
Press Release
June 4, 2009

Government Should Investigate Abusive Prison Guards

(New York) - The Indonesian government should investigate and hold accountable abusive guards and officials at the Abepura prison in Papua, Human Rights Watch said today. Various sources report that torture, beatings, and mistreatment by guards are rampant. Abepura holds approximately 230 prisoners, of whom more than a dozen are imprisoned for peaceful political acts.

"How can the government turn a blind eye to beatings and torture
in one of its prisons?" said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human
Rights Watch. "Jakarta needs to put an end to this disgraceful
behavior, punish those responsible, and start keeping a close
eye on what is happening there."

Human Rights Watch has received reports of more than two dozen
cases of beatings and physical abuse since Anthonius Ayorbaba, a
Papuan civil servant who previously worked in the Jayapura
office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, became the
prison warden in August 2008. As prison warden, Ayorbaba is the
most senior prison official in Abepura. The administration of
prisons falls under the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.

Human Rights Watch said that the Indonesian government should
replace the prison administration and open the prison to
international monitoring. Foreign human rights monitors and
foreign journalists require special police permission to enter
Papua province and are unable to carry out independent research
there. Human Rights Watch also urged President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono to set up an independent team to investigate abuses in
Abepura prison.

Incidents of Abuse

In one case, on September 22, 2008, prison guards took political
prisoner Ferdinand Pakage to the prison security office at
around 8 a.m. The prison's security chief hit Pakage with a
rubber club six times in the head. A guard hit Pakage with his
bare hand, while the chief repeatedly kicked Pakage with his
boot. Another guard, Herbert Toam, punched Pakage's head while
holding a lock and key, which penetrated Pakage's right eye.
Guards threw Pakage into an isolation cell unconscious at around
8:20 a.m. At 2 p.m., prison guards brought Pakage to the Abepura
hospital, but the hospital was closed. Only on September 23 did
doctors examine Pakage at Dock Dua hospital in Jayapura. It was
too late to save his right eye, as the bleeding was too severe.

Ayorbaba wrote an undated chronology of the case, obtained by
Human Rights Watch, which described the beating by Toam. It
states that the severe injury inflicted was an accident,
claiming that Toam hit Pakage without realizing that the key was
still in the lock. It also claimed that Pakage had previously
threatened a prison guard. The report does not mention the role
of two other prison guards in the attack.

In December 2008, Ayorbaba told Human Rights Watch that the
report had been submitted to the Ministry of Law and Human
Rights as well as the National Commission on Human Rights
(Komnas Ham), and that "Herbert is very likely to be fired."
Ayorbaba said he had advised Toam to take a leave of absence
from work and settle the case through traditional means,
involving negotiations with Pakage's clan. Toam did not go to
work between October 2008 and March 2009, though he continued to
draw his monthly salary. He failed to settle the case through
traditional means and returned to work in April.

Neither the Ministry of Law and Human Rights nor Komnas Ham
appear to have conducted any investigation into this matter. In
October, Pakage's family tried to report the case to the
Jayapura police, but the police refused to file the case,
suggesting that the family could settle the case with the
Ministry of Law and Human Rights. The family orally lodged a
complaint with the ministry. In October, the Office of Justice,
Peace and Integrity of Creation (KPKC), a religious group, wrote
to the Ministry of Law and Human Rights office complaining about
various cases of abuse, including Pakage's case, but there has
been no follow-up.

In another case, on February 26, 2009, Abepura prison officials
discovered that Buchtar Tabuni, a detained student leader, had a
mobile phone in his pocket. According to Tabuni, prison guard
Andrianus Sihombing hit Tabuni in his eye, causing it to bleed.
Prison guards temporarily moved Tabuni to the Jayapura police
detention center, apparently so that Indonesia's law and human
rights minister, Andi Mattalatta, would not see the wound while
making a planned inspection of the prison the next day. After
Mattalatta left Papua, guards returned Tabuni to Abepura prison.

On March 1, 2009, Yusak Pakage, another political prisoner who
is related to Ferdinand, asked Sihombing why he had beaten
Tabuni. Sihombing responded by hitting Pakage in the face,
breaking his glasses and cutting his forehead. Several prisoners
intervened to defend Pakage. That night, led by Warden Ayorbaba,
guards moved eight prisoners, including Pakage and a student
leader, Selphius Bobbi, into a small isolation cell, where they
were kept for three nights. The guards reportedly beat Bobbi.
Other guards entered detention blocks and beat many prisoners
indiscriminately, witnesses said. Witnesses told Human Rights
Watch that some of the guards appeared to be drunk.

Guards also reportedly beat with iron bars two prisoners who had
delivered water and food to Pakage while on kitchen duty,
unaware of an apparent order not to feed him.

On May 11, a guard beat a prisoner for possessing a mobile
phone, causing severe bleeding from his left ear. As a result,
the prisoner lost partial hearing in that ear. According to
witnesses, the same guard beat two other prisoners who had used
the mobile phone. The guard forced one of the prisoners to put
his hand into boiling water. The identity of some of those
making the reports is being kept confidential to protect them
from retribution.

Efforts to Lodge Complaints Fruitless

Indonesia's Rehabilitation Law No. 12/1995 sets out procedures
for prisoners to complain about mistreatment in prison.
Prisoners are to report abusive guards to the prison warden. If
the warden is involved, they can report the case to the
provincial office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights in
Jayapura. In such cases, criminal action can be brought against
the officials involved, and the prisoners are entitled to legal

Prior to Ayorbaba's posting as warden, prisoners and their
relatives often reported abuse by guards to the Ministry of Law
and Human Rights, but no action was ever taken. Prisoners say
they have stopped reporting abuses because they lack faith in
the system, and because Ayorbaba had worked in that office
before his promotion so they feared retribution if they spoke

Ministry of Law and Human Rights inspectors from Jakarta are
required to inspect prisons regularly. In practice, prisoners
and a prison guard told Human Rights Watch, the inspectors
usually just meet with the warden. Prisoners have no opportunity
to meet or discuss any issues with prison inspectors from

Since August 2008, informal leaders among the prisoners at
Abepura had requested a meeting with Ayorbaba, but he had
refused. In December 2008, Yusak Pakage, one of the leaders, had
a chance to talk with Ayorbaba when he visited a hospital where
Pakage was being treated for an illness. At that meeting,
Ayorbaba declined to talk about abuses and did not take the
complaints seriously.

"The Indonesian government needs to replace the Abepura prison
management," said Adams. "But this is not just a failure of one
prison warden. It's a failure of Jakarta to set proper standards
and enforce them."

In March, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry ordered the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to close its
field offices in Jayapura and Banda Aceh. The ICRC ran
sanitation projects in Papua and also visited detainees,
including political prisoners, in Abepura prison. Indonesian
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah denied that the
closure had anything to do with the ICRC's visits to Papuan
prisons, including Abepura, saying that it was merely a
regulatory measure.

Human Rights Watch said that international monitors such as the
ICRC and independent human rights groups should be able to visit
prisoners in Abepura to investigate reports of abuse, given the
ministry does not appear to be protecting the interests of
prisoners or responding to grievances.

"These prisoners have exhausted all avenues to fight for their
rights, but officials refuse to listen," said Adams. "Given the
scale of abuses, the Indonesian government should open Papuan
prisons to international monitoring."


The Associated Press
June 5, 2009

Indonesia told to stop prison brutality in Papua

Indonesia should investigate allegations of prison brutality in
insurgency-wracked Papua province, a rights group said Friday,
citing rampant reports of torture, beatings and mistreatment by

The government "needs to put an end to this disgraceful
behavior, punish those responsible," Brad Adams, Asia director
at Human Rights Watch, said.

The Abepura Prison holds about 230 inmates, more than a dozen of
whom were jailed for peaceful political acts, such as
participating in anti-government demonstrations and waving the
flag of the small separatist movement.

The government – which is extremely sensitive to secessionist
threats, no matter how small – bars foreign human rights
monitors and foreign journalists from entering Papua unless they
have special police permission, and prohibits them from carrying
out research.

In March, the Red Cross was ordered to leave the easternmost
province after its workers visited several suspected rebels in

Officials with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, which
overseas prisons, could not be reached for comment Friday. And
prison warden Anthonius Ayorbaba told The Associated Press "I
can't talk about it now."

The New York-based rights group said it had received more than
two dozen reports of beatings and physical abuse in the last
year, including a Sept. 22, 2008 attack on one of the political
prisoners, Ferdinand Pakage that caused him to lose an eye.

"The prison's security chief hit the prisoner with a rubber club
six times on the head," the rights group wrote in a statement
Friday. It said that two other guards pummeled him until he was
unconscious, one while holding a key that penetrated his right

The inmate was thrown into an isolation cell, it said, and
waited more than 24 hours to get medical help.

The rights group detailed several other cases of abuse,
including an attack on a prisoner for possessing a mobile phone,
causing his left ear to bleed and resulting in partial hearing
loss. Another guard forced an inmate to put his hand into
boiling water, the group said.

Adams urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to set up an
independent team to investigate the abuses.

Indonesia took over Papua from the Dutch in 1963 and formalized
its sovereignty over the region six years later through a
stage-managed vote by about 1,000 community leaders.

A small insurgency has battled Indonesian rule in the
impoverished province ever since. About 100,000 Papuans – a
sixth of the population – have died in military operations.