Children risk unfair trial, torture

A 15-year-old boy returned home on the night of March 14 this year to find all the lights in his house in Depok, turned off. He had spent the day fishing with his friends and found the darkness of his house rather peculiar. He pushed open the creaking door and saw his mother with tears streaming down her cheek.

“Mother, what’s wrong?”

His mother’s reply was incomprehensible: “People looking for you,” “giving drugs to a girl”, “taking off with her”.

“What drugs? What are you talking about? I’ve been fishing all day”. His friends backed up his story.

Adi (not his real name) decided to go to the neighborhood leader’s house. They were expecting him and the father of a girl he was acquainted with was also waiting for him there.

In the two weeks preceding that night, a girl from a neighboring area had been hanging out with Adi
and his friends. As they were all mostly school dropouts the girl used to skip classes and spend time with them.

On March 14, Adi called her to ask if she would like to go fishing, she refused and stayed with a friend instead. When her father came looking for her, the girl told her father that Adi had given her drugs and had sexually assaulted her.

Adi did not know that when he went to face the accusations, it would be the last time he would see his home.

The house of the neighborhood leader was packed with neighbors, as well as the police. Adi came and introduced himself to the crowd and to the father of his friend.

He was met with a kick from the man and the police took him away for questioning.

The rest of the story brought Adi to where he is now. Adi is currently serving two years at Salemba prison in the children’s facility. His head is shaved extremely short and his eyes often glance straight ahead when recounting his experience, as if seeing the events unfold before his eyes.

According to Adi’s lawyers, from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), Adi has been a victim of an unfair trial. Under the 1997 Law on juvenile courts and 2002 Law on child protection, children’s trials should be closed to the public. Yet during Adi’s trial, the father of the girl, who works as a debt collector, brought dozens of thugs to the trial. According to Arif Maulana, Adi’s lawyer, the judge allowed the men to intimidate Adi and did not prevent the thugs from interrupting Adi’s lawyers during the cross examination of witnesses from the attorney’s side.

Further, Arif said, tests showed there to be no trace of drugs in the girl and the victim report did not provide any proof of the alleged assault.

Arif said the most disturbing part of the trial was that the judges rejected the request for witnesses to be called to support Adi’s innocence. Arif said they had witnesses who could testify that Adi was fishing at the time of the alleged assault and that the girl was not with him but was with another witness.

Arif said that Adi’s case was not only unfair but in addition, did not consider Adi’s young age. The judge has been reported to the Judicial Commission and Adi is now waiting for his appeal process to begin.

Children facing the law are vulnerable in terms of their legal rights and according to LBH Jakarta, violations occur across the whole process; arrest, interrogation, detainment and trial.

Syahri Ramadhan, 19, also endures the trauma of having to relive his own harrowing experience of being assaulted by the police as a 15-year-old boy. He is suing the police for false arrest and torture.

In 2009, he was accused of stealing his neighbor’s cellular phone and a laptop. While being questioned by the police, he said that the detectives used force to make him confess to the crime. On the first day, police officers told him “just confess that you’re the perpetrator.” “There is no use in you denying it, I’ll put you in prison,” Syahri cited the officers.

“[They] started beating me the next day. Perhaps they lost their patience,” Syahri said.

Syahri explains the abuse he suffered at the hands of the police, who beat him so much that the interrogation room was covered in his blood and hair. Police put a sandal inside his mouth when he cried, burnt his skin with cigarettes and pointed a gun at his stomach. Syahri lasted three days until he finally agreed to a confession. “You know, I was a kid. For a child, being beaten by his father is scary enough to make him run away, more over by [police] officers,” he said.

At his trial he withdrew his confession, saying that he was under duress. The judge released him from all charges as another suspect was caught who confessed to the crime and said that Syahri had nothing to do with it.

Syahri never continued onto junior high school. He said he was embarrassed and rather than dealing with the stigma of having once been accused as a thief, he’d rather just go straight to work.

He is now working as a mechanic.

Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said, commenting on police brutality against minors, the police follow both the child protection law and law on juvenile courts.

Maruli Rajagukguk, Syahri’s lawyer, said Syahri’s case was the first where the police were sued for brutality against a minor. “This could be a good precedent to show that the police can be held accountable. It will encourage police to carry out reform,” he said.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Fri, October 05 2012

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