Double standards of Indonesian police

By Answer C. Styannes

Jakarta, Indonesia — Two vice chairmen of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission are under police investigation for alleged abuse of authority. Yet lawyers and activists have widely criticized the investigation of Chandra M. Hamzah and Bibit Samad Riyanto, suggesting the two are being persecuted because the police hope to weaken the commission and undermine its effective anti-corruption efforts.

Rivalry between the two law enforcement institutions surfaced in July 2009, when the commission began investigating the national police’s chief detective, Commissioner General Susno Duaji, for allegedly using his power to force Bank Century to return a large amount of deposited funds to their owner unlawfully. In return, it is alleged, Duaji received 10 billion rupiah (US$1.06 million).

The commission’s investigation of Duaji is widely believed to have triggered the police investigation into the alleged abuse of power by the two commissioners. This view is strengthened by the fact that the police charge was inconsistent and apparently fabricated – the police first said that the commissioners were involved in bribery but later said it was abuse of power.

This lack of professionalism is not new among Indonesia’s police. In this case the police reprisal against the anti-corruption commission was on the national level, but such behavior also prevails at the grassroots level.

For example, a case came to light recently in which an underage girl was raped by a 40-year-old man. Her family filed a complaint with the Jakarta police, but no proper inquiry was conducted. Worse, after her family found the perpetrator and brought him to the police station, instead of detaining him the police released him, citing lack of evidence.

In cases such as torture and other police abuses, victims are often reluctant to complain to the police because they are asked to provide witnesses and other evidence. As police torture and abuses take place in a closed setting, it is hard to fulfill such requirements.

The only witnesses in a torture case are the police officers themselves. It would be rare for an officer to testify against his colleagues and support the victim’s complaint.

The police are guilty of negligence in some cases, and abuse of power in others, as is evident from the different handling of the cases involving the commissioners and the young rape victim. While the police acted swiftly to investigate the commissioners, they neglected their duty concerning the young girl.

These are common problems reflecting the lack of professionalism within Indonesia’s police force. The police often fail in their duty. When they are supposed to respond quickly, they are often overly cautious. And when conditions require that they react with care, rash measures are taken.

Professionalism in the police force is important, as it is closely related to human rights enforcement. It is a police obligation to protect human rights. An unprofessional police force can impede people’s access to justice, as it is the only institution with the authority to handle almost all criminal cases.

Furthermore, instead of implementing their slogan "to serve and protect," Indonesia’s police have caused distrust in people about law enforcement. As a famous cynical saying goes, "Complaining to the police about your lost chicken will only cause you to lose your goat." This describes the state of policing in Indonesia.

Distrust toward the police can lead to social unrest if people start taking the law into their own hands, as was seen recently in Pelalawan, Pekanbaru when angry residents attacked a red light district, smashing property and setting fire to buildings.

If the police could so hastily launch an investigation into the two commissioners who threatened them, they should be able to quickly launch their own internal reforms, as misconduct within the force in the long term is a much bigger threat to the cause of law enforcement they are pledged to protect.
(Answer C. Styannes is a research associate at the Community Legal Aid Institute in Jakarta, Indonesia. She is currently studying in the Faculty of Law at the University of Indonesia, majoring in constitutional law. Her work focuses on issues of constitutional law, judicial and legislative reforms, labor laws, and civil and political rights).

Sumber: UPI

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