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The Importance of Keeping the Indonesian Police Creditable and Accountable

The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) is concerned about continuing incidents of violence and misuse of power by members of the police force over the past few months. KontraS has received many such complaints, including the arbitrary use of weapons, mistaken detentions, torture of suspects during the investigation process, and various other incidents of violence and inhumane treatment.

From October to December 2009, KontraS noted 22 cases of violence and abuse of power. In the month of December alone, KontraS recorded 11 such cases. The last such case was the complaint KontraS received relating to the legal action taken by the National Police chief of detectives Susno Duadji against the University of Indonesia-affiliated Bambang Widodo Umar, who publicly criticized the Indonesian Police’s work in handling corruption over the past few months. 

However, not all incidents are pursued through legal means, and in some cases the public is not clearly informed about those which are. The new SP2HP mechanism (Updates on the progress of a police investigation) has not yet been effectively implemented, especially if the accused is someone in the police force itself. Even though the Police say that they’ve increased the number of disciplinary actions against police who misuse their power and authority, the information given is not specific. The public, especially the families of the victims, have a right of access to clear and regular information about developments in the investigation.

The duty of the police to ‘protect and serve the people’ will continue to be only a slogan if the Police force fails to restore the culture of autonomy. We also question the effects of the Implementation of the Standards and Principles of Human Rights in the Duties of the Police (Perkap HAM), promulgated by the Chief of Police, since there has been continued violence and human rights violations. The Perkap HAM represents an internal acknowledgement of human rights norms in support of effective police work in maintain of security, law and order, protection, and service to the people.

We are worried that police efforts in ‘trust building’ as outlined in the Indonesian Police’s 2005-2010 Strategic Plan cannot be effectively implemented without a restoration of the culture of autonomy in the police force itself. The police also have promised to raise the level of the professionalism in the police force in the fields of investigation and human rights in the first 100 days of the Yudhoyono government (2009 – 2014). 
We believe it is important for the police to restore internal accountability. There must be clear and measurable sanctions against human rights violations as well as violations against the Perkap HAM. This will make sure lessons are learnt and impunity minimized. We call on the police to work on the internal affairs divisions (Propam) at the provincial level. Effective internal affairs divisions are important in raising the level of trust among citizens. The structure of the bureaucracy cannot block the effectiveness of this work. The police force also has to open itself to complaints about the misuse of power as well as incidents of violence by its members at the lowest levels. 

The police must also respect the efforts of its critics. In the most recent incident, National Police chief of detectives Susno Duadji’s legal action against a critic clearly represents a threat to democracy and freedom of opinion. Such actions taken against critics of police handling of corruption cases will certainly be noticed by the public.

Finally, we commend the efforts of the police to open themselves to complaints of citizens. However, this will not be adequate until mechanisms of accountability are restored. Oversight of the police from independent parties is significant in building room for constructive criticism. There, the role of the National Commission on Human Rights, the National Police Commission and the Ombudsman Commission must immediately do direct investigations of  cases of violence by the police. We ask that Commission III of the Parliament also pay attention to this issue as part of their mandate as representatives of Indonesia’s citizens. 

Jakarta, 27 Desember 2009

Indria Fernida

A Oslan Purba

Vice-Coordinator

Secretary-General of the KontraS Federation

Attachment : Data on Police Violence October - December 2009