INDONESIA: A good police chief does not tolerate torture

An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission to Bambang Sri Herwanto, the newly inaugurated Chief of the West Sumatra Regional Police
Mr. Bambang Sri Herwanto
Chief of West Sumatra Regional Police
Jl. Sudirman No. 55,
Padang, West Sumatra
Tel: +62 751 33416
Fax: +62 751 33416
Dear Mr. Herwanto,
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a Hong Kong-based regional human rights organisation, would like to congratulate you on your recent inauguration as the Chief of West Sumatra Regional Police. We have noted your statement to the media indicating your commitment to continue working on the cases that have been in the attention of the West Sumatra Regional Police, namely illegal mining and corruption cases.
We are delighted with your commitment and we look forward to witnessing the fulfilment of your promise. We wish to point out, however, that merely continuing what has been done by your predecessor, Mr. Noer Ali, is not going to get the job done. In fact, given Mr. Noer Ali's poor track record during his time at West Sumatra Regional Police, it may not be good enough at all.
Throughout his 11 months in office, Mr. Noer Ali was soft on police officers who engaged in the practice of torture. About a month before he left the office, two men named Oki and Andi were tortured and shot in their legs by officers of Padang District Police. Despite pressure from the civil society and the public, Mr. Noer Ali did not order his officers to investigate the case as a result of which the perpetrators have still not been charged as of today. We and other organisations who are concerned with this particular case demanded Mr. Noer Ali to transfer Oki and Andi from Padang District Police to a safer and neutral detention facility, such as one in West Sumatra Regional Police. Yet even for such a simple thing, Mr. Noer Ali has proven to be irresponsible.
During Mr. Noer Ali's command at the Regional Police, there were two torture cases investigated by the police which led to the punishment of the perpetrators. However, these cases were investigated only after civil society organisations such as Padang Legal Aid Institute (LBH Padang) demanded it. Before any of your staff, adviser, or Mr. Noer Ali himself tells you any misleading narratives about these cases, we are informing you first that any credits on such successful investigation cannot, and should not, go to Mr. Noer Ali. A good chief of police does not tolerate torture at any time – not just when the public urges them to do so.
LBH Padang noted that, in 2010-2013, there were 63 cases of torture and violence by state officials in West Sumatra which resulted in the injuries and deaths of 246 people. According to the legal aid institute, such cases in 2013 were perpetrated mostly by the police. You perhaps are well informed already on the torture cases of two brothers in Sijunjung and of Erik Alamsyah in Bukittinggi. In both cases, the victims were tortured to death by police officers merely so the latter could obtain their confessions.
As the newly inaugurated Chief of West Sumatra Regional Police, one of your most urgent tasks is to eliminate the practice of torture by police officers under your authority. Such practice should not be tolerated. The officers allegedly involved in it should be criminally investigated and punished, not merely subjected to an internal disciplinary mechanism under the Professionalism and Security Division (Propam). The torture case of Oki and Andi is your first test. Conducting a criminal investigation on the torture allegation and transferring both victims to a safer detention facility are good ways to start.
We look forward to witnessing your positive actions against torture practised by your officers.
Thank you.
Yours sincerely,
Answer Styannes
Indonesia Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong