Jakarta. The Asian Human Rights Commission, or AHRC, last week urged Indonesia to consistently implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture, citing several areas of concern that have allowed torture to take place in the country, such as the absence of a national law to punish torture, its continued practice in police investigations and little accountability for perpetrators.
Despite having ratified the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1998, torture remains a serious problem in the archipelago.
"The government and the parliament have failed to develop high legal standards to prosecute and punish torture," the AHRC said in a statement to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on Monday (26/06).
The AHRC highlighted several problems that prevent Indonesia from eliminating torture.
This includes a lack of an effective oversight mechanism for police, allowing power abuse as well as pretrial detention under the criminal code encouraging torture in custody.
Despite the government having issued a handbook of human rights to police officers, torture is often committed to extract confessions from suspects and witnesses.
As many victims of torture are mostly poor, uneducated people with little understanding of their legal rights and most torture cases involve suspects unable to access lawyers or public defenders, the Indonesian criminal justice systems suffer from shortcomings that allow the continued practice of torture.
The AHRC pointed out that the 2011 Legal Aid Law still proves ineffective for poorer members of the community facing criminal investigations.
"Until today, the Indonesian police are still the most frequent perpetrators of torture," the AHRC said in the statement.
Sunday's suspected terrorist attack that resulted in the death of a police officer in Medan, North Sumatra, may serve as momentum to speed up the finalization of an ongoing revision of the 2003 Antiterrorism Law, currently deliberated by the House of Representatives.
Jakarta-based human rights group, the Setara Institute, said on Wednesday that the police need pretrial authority to prevent terrorist attacks.
Along with the rest of the world, Indonesia is gearing up to face increasing threats of terrorism. Giving police greater powers and ensuring that law enforcement officers can effectively prevent terrorism will become increasingly necessary.
However, Indonesia may need to address root problems in its criminal justice system to avoid severe violations of human rights in its counterterrorism efforts.
Despite having ratified the UN Torture Convention in 1998, Indonesia is still unwilling to establish a human rights court to address violations defined in the Human Rights Law of 2000.
Besides the human rights court, Indonesia has also been eliminating the crime of genocide from the law.
External oversight, which is crucial in bringing perpetrators to justice, still remains ineffective in Indonesia.
Independent state agencies, such as the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the National Police Commission (Kompolnas), fell short in their expected roles to ensure effective law enforcement in cases of torture cases and to contribute to the eradication of the practice.
"The government should develop high standards of law to prosecute and punish torture [...] The government should also develop effective oversight mechanisms to ensure that all forms of torture and abuse of power conducted by state agents are punished, and that the culture of impunity is abolished," the AHRC said.