Tag Archives: Maluku

AWPA (Sydney) Urges Moratorium on Australian aid to Detachment 88 torturers

Australia West Papua Association, Sydney
PO Box 28, Spit Junction, Sydney, Australia 2088

The Hon Julia Gillard MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House
ACT 2600

15  September 2010

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the Australia West Papua Association  (AWPA),  I am writing to you concerning the recent media reports about the torture of activists in Maluku by members of the Indonesian counter-terrorism unit Detachment 88. Detachment 88 also operates in West Papua where they have  also  been accused of human rights abuses. In December 2009  the West Papuan  leader Kelly Kwalik who was of great symbolic importance  to the West Papuan people was killed  by the Indonesian security forces  which included members of  Detachment 88.  We will not go into great detail of the human rights abuses committed by this unit and that of the other Indonesian Special Forces unit,  Kopassus.  These human rights abuses have been documented in numerous reports and the activities of the Indonesian security forces  are well know to the Australian people from their past history in East Timor, Aceh and the ongoing abuses in West Papua.  A recent Human Rights Watch report titled “What Did I Do Wrong?” Papuans in Merauke Face Abuses by Indonesian Special Forces,”  documents a number of cases of West Papuans who were tortured by Kopassus troops.
AWPA and other civil society organisations have written regularly to Australian Governments over many years about our ties with the Indonesian military. We have raised concerns that any aid or training given to the military would be used against the West Papuan people who are struggling for their right to self-determination.

Many of the NGO submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) concerning  the Lombok treaty, also raised  concerns about the past history of  the Indonesian military’s treatment of civilian populations.  Unfortunately these concerns have proven yet again justified in the case of the treatment of activists in West Papua and Maluku.

During the occupation of East Timor by Indonesia, the Australian Government appeared to believe that by continuing ties with the Indonesian military that  the professionalism of the Australian military would  rub off on the Indonesian military.  However, this  proved to be wishful thinking and a complete failure  as  was shown  by the behavior of the Indonesian military at the time of the referendum in East Timor. It is also a failure now.  To quote from the Human Rights Watch Report  “The cases in this report illustrate how violence thrives when a culture of impunity persists in  the heart of what is supposed to be one of Indonesia’s best trained fighting units”.

AWPA is urging you to put a moratorium on the training, funding and any ties between  the Australian military,  Detachment 88 and the special forces unit  Kopassus, until a full inquiry is held into the activities of these units in relation to  human rights abuses in the archipelago.

Yours sincerely
Joe Collins
AWPA (Sydney)

CC The Hon Kevin Rudd MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs
The Hon Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
Various human rights organisations

SMH: Activist's death blamed on anti-terrorism squad 'abuses'

Activist’s death blamed on

anti-terrorism squad ‘abuses’

Yusuf Sipakoly ... ‘I have rights to express my opinion.’Yusuf Sipakoly … ‘I have rights to express my opinion.’

JAKARTA: In his last interview, the Malukan political prisoner Yusuf Sipakoly, said: ”I believe the truth will surely arrive, although it walks slowly.”

Mr Sipakoly, who died on Monday, was one of many activists in the eastern Indonesian province to allege gross human rights abuses by Detachment 88, the Indonesian anti-terrorism unit partly funded by Australia.

Sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2007 for possessing a small separatist flag, the Herald spoke to him less than two weeks ago while he was in an Ambon hospital hooked to a dialysis machine.

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”I was tied with nylon [by the Detachment 88 officers] and my head was covered with a bucket,” he said. ”Then they started beating me until I urinated in my underwear …

”Another police officer, not Detachment 88, hit me with a wooden block while another officer hit me all over my body.”

Mr Sipakoly also alleged he was forced to drink hot water infused with carbon paper.

The 52-year-old father’s subsequent kidney and stomach ailments were a result of the mistreatment, he said.

”I didn’t commit subversion; I never carried gun and pointed it at anyone or anything; I never launched any violent attack against the state, but I only wanted to prove that I have rights to express my opinion.”

Although no action was ever taken against those who allegedly beat him, Mr Sipakoly was among 70 people interrogated in 2007 and given long prison sentences.

Another dozen men were arrested last month for planning a peaceful protest and alleged similar abuses.

Yesterday the Indonesian police chief, Bambang Hendraso Danuri, confirmed police would investigate the new claims of torture, highlighted in a Herald investigation this week.

A prominent human rights lawyer, Johnson Panjaitan, said that despite several attempts to raise the alleged abuses with Indonesian authorities, this was the first time they had agreed to launch an investigation into the alleged abuses.

But he said the exercise was pointless unless the investigation was independent and undertaken by the Indonesian government’s human rights and police watchdogs.

“This is an important case,” Mr Panjaitan said.

However, Indonesia’s Co-ordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security, Djoko Suyanto, said he doubted the claims were true.

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 http://www.theage.com.au/national/antiterror-unit-deals-out-own-terror-20100912-15702.html

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 http://www.theage.com.au/world/protesters-tortured-beaten-and-humiliated-by-elite-force-20100912-156y9.htm
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.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: End criminalization of peaceful political activities in Maluku

Public statement

AI Index: ASA 21/017/2010
19 August 2010

INDONESIA: End criminalization of peaceful political activities in Maluku

The decision to charge at least 22 political activists in Maluku for “rebellion” once again highlights the failure of the Indonesian government to distinguish between armed groups and peaceful political activists. Amnesty International urges the Indonesian government to release immediately and unconditionally the activists, who are all men, if they have been arrested solely for their peaceful political activities.

On 13 August 2010 the Maluku police announced that they were planning to charge the political activists with “rebellion” against the state (makar) under Articles 106 and 110 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code (KUHP, Kitab Undang-Undang Hukum Pidana). The police pointed to evidence which included possession of dozens of “Benang Raja” flags, a symbol of the South Maluku independence; Republic of South Maluku (RMS) membership cards; and photos and stickers of the independence flag.

According to local sources, the activists were planning to use the visit of Indonesia’s President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to Maluku in early August as an opportunity to disseminate materials related to alleged human rights violations there, including posters calling for the release of political prisoners in Maluku arrested for their peaceful political activism.

Amnesty International is also concerned about their safety in custody, as detained political activists are known to have been tortured and ill-treated in Maluku. The authorities must ensure that the men are allowed access to legal counsel of their choosing, their families and any medical treatment that they may require.


The Republic of South Maluku (RMS), an armed pro-independence movement, officially ended in Maluku with the execution of its leader by the Indonesian authorities in 1966. However, some villagers continue to raise the “Benang Raja” flag there as a peaceful political act of protest against the central government.

Amnesty International has documented dozens of arrests in past years of political activists who have peacefully called for independence, particularly in areas where there has been a history of pro-independence movements such as Maluku and Papua.

Amnesty International takes no position whatsoever on the political status of any province of Indonesia, including calls for independence. However the organization believes that the right to freedom of expression includes the right to peacefully advocate referendums, independence or other political solutions.

The rights to free expression, opinion and peaceful assembly are guaranteed under the Indonesian Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Indonesia is a state party. While the Indonesian government has the duty and the right to protect life and to maintain public order within its jurisdiction, it must ensure that any restrictions to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are no more than is permitted under international human rights law.

In June 2007, 22 political activists in Maluku province were arrested for unfurling the “Benang Raja” flag while performing a traditional “Cakalele” dance in front of the President. After their performance, the police, particularly the anti-terrorist unit Detachment-88, detained all 22 of the dancers. They were tortured or otherwise ill-treated, charged with “rebellion” under Articles 106 and 110 of the Indonesia Criminal Code and are serving sentences of between seven and 20 years’ imprisonment. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience. A twenty-third dancer, also a prisoner of conscience, was arrested in June 2008 and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in March 2009.


Public Document
For more information please contact Amnesty International’s press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or press@amnesty.org

Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, http://www.amnesty.org
For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org