SMH: Counter-terrorism squad to stay in Papua

Tom Allard

Media Information – FYI
September 14, 2010

JAKARTA: Detachment 88 has a legitimate role in countering separatism and will remain in Papua, where a long-simmering independence campaign has been running, the unit’s commander, Tito Karnavian, has confirmed.

In an interview with the Herald, Brigadier General Karnavian said Papua was different to Maluku, another Indonesian province where members of the counter-terrorism unit have been accused of abuses and from where they will soon leave.

General Karnavian pointed to shootings last year near the US-owned Freeport mine, in which an Australian worker, Drew Grant, and others died, as evidence that separatists in Papua were using ”tactics of terror”.

”Any group using violence against civilians must be seen as a terrorist group. It’s not just Islamic groups,” he said.

”You can’t confine Detachment 88 only for Islamic groups. That would be used by Islamic groups to say that we are just an extension of the Western powers against Islam.”

Independence supporters dispute that their armed wing, Organisasi Papua Merdeka, was involved in the Freeport shootings, blaming Indonesian military and police who lost the lucrative job of guarding the gargantuan gold and copper mine.

One analyst, who asked not to be named, doubted whether Detachment 88 should play a significant role in suppressing separatism and said it could prove counter-productive.

”It’s a huge mistake to brand separatist activity as terrorism – activities designed to create fear – when you are trying to find a political solution in places like Papua,” the analyst said.

Australia and the US fund and train Detachment 88, Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorism unit, and value its skill in preventing terrorist attacks, uncovering networks and arresting offenders.

But the nations have been concerned by repeated allegations of abuses in Maluku and are wary of being linked to its counter-separatist activities.

In response to the Herald’s revelations yesterday about abuses in Maluku, l an Australian Foreign Affairs spokesman said: ”Det-88 has not sought assistance from Australia in any investigations or operations to counter internal separatist movements.”

Brigadier General Karnavian said an imminent restructuring of Detachment 88 would see its forces outside Jakarta, including those in Papua, focus on ”intelligence gathering rather than investigations”.

Under the new arrangements, forces would report directly to Jakarta. At present, General Karnavian said he had no control over Detachment 88 police outside the capital, including those in Maluku. ”They were instructed directly by the head of police or head of detectives in the province,” he said.

An Indonesia analyst from the Australian National University, Greg Fealy, welcomed the restructure. ”There are some well trained, highly professional Densus [Detachment 88] officers at the national level, but regional units often reflect local police culture and preoccupations, including a greater tendency to use violence.”

SMH: Indonesia backdown on state 'torturers'

Tom Allard

The Ambon-based unit of Detachment 88, accused of brutality and the torture of peaceful political protesters, will be disbanded, the head of the elite counter-terrorism force, Tito Karnavian, has said.

The decision to remove Detachment 88 entirely from the Malukas archipelago came as a Herald investigation exposed serious abuses of political prisoners in the province by its members last month.

Brigadier General Karnavian said it was clear the Malukan separatists were peaceful, and therefore there was no need for Detachment 88 to be involved in the province. ”Detachment 88 in Ambon will be dismissed very soon,” he said.

The Herald yesterday revealed allegations by a group of men who were arrested last month and taken to Detachment 88’s Ambon headquarters. They said they were beaten for up to a week; brought to the point of suffocation with plastic bags placed over their heads; pierced with nails while forced to hold stress positions; and ordered to eat raw chillies. Two men were hospitalised.

It was also revealed the Australian embassy in Jakarta had sent an official to investigate the abuses, and the US had blacklisted members of Detachment 88 based in Ambon, the Maluku capital, and had refused to train or equip them since 2008.

Brigadier General Karnavian denied there was a systemic problem of excessive force within Detachment 88, a criticism that has also surfaced because of the number of terrorist suspects – 17 in the past year – who have been shot dead rather than arrested.

He said the new allegations of abuses in Maluku could be investigated by local authorities or, possibly, internal affairs.

But Kontras, Indonesia’s leading human rights group, said an independent review of Detachment 88 was the only way to have a serious investigation into its alleged abuses.

Fairfax:Anti-terror unit deals out own terror

Anti-terror unit deals out own terror
Tom Allard, Maluku
September 13, 2010

Reposting as WPMA were fixers

Ambonese prisoners claim they have been tortured and beaten by Detachment 88, Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorism unit funded and trained by Australia. See video at

AUSTRALIA has sent an official to the Indonesian province of Maluku to investigate claims that Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorism unit, Detachment 88, which Australia and the US train and fund, brutalised a group of separatists last month, repeatedly beating and abusing them in detention

The alleged serious mistreatment of political activists in the Indonesian province comes as it emerged that, in May 2008, the US secretly banned members of Detachment 88 in Maluku from receiving assistance.

The Age has also learned that the Australian government is ”aware and concerned” about the activities of the Detachment 88 officers, sending an official to Ambon, Maluku’s capital, to investigate two weeks ago.

But human rights activists argue the response from the donor nations is inadequate because the abuses of peaceful protesters, which were first documented in late 2007, continue.

About 12 activists were arrested in early August and taken to the Detachment 88 office in Tantui, a suburb of Ambon, where they say they were subject to mistreatment both brutal and bizarre, an investigation by The Age has revealed.

The arrests occurred after police and intelligence officers foiled a plot to float dozens of banned flags and other political material attached on helium-filled balloons across Ambon when Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and foreign guests were in town for the Sail Banda regatta.

Seven of the prisoners smuggled out recorded statements, while another activist was interviewed while recuperating from a fractured hip. He was handcuffed to his bed in hospital.

All said they were blindfolded and then hit around the head and body by the police officers during interrogation, sometimes with wooden sticks and bars or while forced to hold painful stress positions.

Police allegedly jumped on the prisoners, burned them with cigarettes, pierced them with nails, and brought them to the point of suffocation with plastic bags placed over their heads.

One said he was forced to eat raw chillies, while two said they were ordered to hug and kiss each other and beaten when they refused. ”We were all tortured beyond limit and, during the torture, if we mentioned the name of the Lord Jesus, we would be punched and slapped,” said Yusuf Sahetapy, one of the prisoners.

A spokesman for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade declined to confirm or deny whether Australia had, or would, institute a ban on Detachment 88 officers like the US, saying the department would not comment on individual members of the unit.

‘The Australian government is aware of, and concerned by, the allegations of brutality towards political prisoners,” the spokesman said. ”We will continue to monitor the situation and make representations as necessary.”

Detachment 88’s commander, Tito Karnavian, said the unit in Maluku was not under his control, and referred inquiries to local police.

The director of criminal investigations in Maluku, Jhonny Siahaan, said ”no violent act was ever used during the investigation. All the people arrested are doing fine. None with broken bones, all healthy, none hospitalised. It is our department doing it, not Detachment 88.”

But The Age interviewed one of the prisoners, Yonias Siahaya, in hospital, where he was recuperating from a fractured hip and was handcuffed to his bed. Mr Sahetapy also said he spent two days in hospital, before returning to detention and more beatings.

The Age also obtained one of the arrest warrants for the men, which is signed by Dwight Jordan de Fretes, who is identified as acting commander of Detachment 88 in Maluku.

Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia of Human Rights Watch, said the allegations of torture by Detachment 88 have been consistent and detailed for three years, and Australia and the US needed to pressure the Indonesian government.

”Detachment 88 should be investigated by an independent body. The international donors should press very hard and consider suspending or limiting assistance,” he said. ”This kind of torture is a damning indictment of the Indonesian government … and of those who support Detachment 88.”

Related articles

Protesters tortured, beaten and humiliated by elite force
Evidence is building that Detachment 88, which Australia and the US train and fund, is out of control.

Crack unit created after Bali attack

Special Detachment 88, or Densus 88, is a crack Indonesian counter-terrorism unit that many Indonesians admire for its success in hunting down terrorists and preventing attacks.

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