Making sure the children are safe

Not learning much: Young inmates gather in their cell at Serang prison in Banten on Wednesday. The nation’s jails or child detention centers do not work as correctional or reform institutions , but rather transform underage inmates into hardened criminals. (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)

Reported violence against children increases every year, although it is not clear whether organizations advocating children encourage victims to report their cases. Some of the incidents involve child perpetrators, and some are constant victims of abusive elders. Of the children who manage to get help, who takes care of them? The Jakarta Post’s Prodita Sabarini reports on the issue.

Sixteen-year-old W wears her hair in a ponytail with thick bangs. Her face is round with soft edges, revealing her youth. While other girls were studying hard at school or just busy being teens, for years W had to work far away from home as a nanny to other people’s children.

A child looking after children, W is a victim of child trafficking. She said she only finished fifth grade and was immediately sent from her home in Malang to work in Batam, a short ferry ride from Singapore.

“I looked after a 6-year-old and a 5-year-old,” she said. She never saw any of her earnings as all her money was remitted directly to her parents.

W now stays at the Social Affairs Ministry’s Bambu Apus Safe House (RPSA), a shelter for children who are in need of protection, in East Jakarta.

Out of earshot of W, Hasrifah, the head of Bambu Apus Safe House, told The Jakarta Post that they were looking for a boarding school for W as she would not be safe from being trafficked again if she returned to her family.

Often, parents of the children are part of the trafficking. Hasrifah said that W’s mother was part of the problem. “W seems to be between knowing and not knowing that her mother worked with the traffickers,” she said.

Under the Constitution, the government is responsible for caring for neglected children. Many Indonesians know by heart Article 34 (1) of the 1945 Constitution: the State takes care of the poor and neglected children. Protection for children is further reinforced in the 2002 law on child protection and the recently passed 2012 law on the juvenile justice system.

Indonesia has made progress in the legal protection of children since the passing of the 2002 Child Protection Law. The Bambu Apus Safe House was established under a 2002 joint-ministerial decree by the Social Affairs Ministry, the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry and the National Police to provide a safe house, a trauma center and a recovery center.

The safe house, opened in 2004, shelters children who are victims of abuse, trafficked, facing the law, abandoned or separated from their families. Twenty-five similar shelters are modeled on this safe house and are spread across the country.

The recently passed 2012 law on the juvenile justice system, for example, includes protection for child victims and child witnesses.

“This is progress because the previous 1997 law on the juvenile court did not mention child victims and child witnesses,” the Social Affairs Ministry’s subdivision head in charge of children facing the law, Puti Hairida, said.

But, it is not only progress in protection for child victims and witnesses. While previously in the 1997 law on juvenile courts children as young as 8 years old could be legally processed for criminal offenses, the new 2012 law on the juvenile justice system increases the age limit to 12. It also stipulates that children below 14 years of age cannot be detained. Furthermore, under the 2012 law, the status of children of the state will be eliminated.

The 2012 law on the juvenile justice system also prioritizes restorative justice rather than criminal punishment for child offenders. MA and BS, who both have committed violence, currently stay at the Marsudi Putra Handayani Social Center in East Jakarta. The two are examples of when children are given restorative justice instead of criminal punishment.

Standing tall, MA, 13, would almost reach the shoulder of a 6-foot adult man. His petite frame and soft voice belies the life that he has lived.

On Feb. 16, MA stabbed his school friend Sonny (not his real name), 12, after a quarrel over a cellular phone. Sonny had alleged that MA had stolen his phone. MA then assaulted Sonny on their way to school in a housing complex in Cinere, Depok. “I was consumed with anger, I brought a knife from home and stabbed him,” MA said. Sonny survived after a security guard found him in a gutter.

MA said that according to police records, he stabbed Sonny 19 times. “I didn’t realize it at the time … my body was under the influence of the devil,” he said.

He now lives here with other child offenders. BS, 17, for example, is also serving time at the center. In June last year, he participated in a group assault in Matraman, Central Jakarta, that left one person dead and another three crippled.

Puti said that child offenders are in reality victims as well. “It is not their fault but that of surrounding elements: us adults,” she said.

According National Commission on Child’s Protection (Komnas PA) data, reported cases of violence against children increases every year.

In 2011, some 2,508 cases were reported, an increase from the 2,335 cases the previous year. The majority of victims are girls. Some 1,601 girls and 892 boys were victims of violence in 2011, an increase from 1.432 girls and 887 boys in 2010.

The Bambu Apus Safe House has sheltered more than 700 children since it opened in 2004. While the safe house provides shelter, counseling and case management for abused children, it does not provide a permanent home for them. Hasrifah said that they worked with a network of child foundations, NGOs, boarding schools and religious institutions to refer children for a permanent home until they reach the age of 18 or until they become independent.

For children whose parents are the perpetrators of abuse, the government searches for other ways for the children to be raised and taken care of without their parents. Hasrifah noted though that in Indonesia, the first solution was to still return the children to the family.

“There is nothing that can match family care. Even if a child is being cared for in a center that is luxurious compared to a family home, it is still better to be cared for by their family,” Hasrifah said. She said that in a center three carers can be responsible for 10 babies. “While in a family, one child can have undivided attention from its family,” Hasrifah said.

Hasrifah said that the center would locate a child’s parents and cooperate with village leaders to mediate between the parents and the child. If it is not possible for the child to return to their parents due to severe physical abuse and/or sexual abuse, the center looks for the next of kin of the child, such as the grandparents or aunt and uncle.

If returning to the family would not be beneficial to the child, then the center refers the child to a boarding school that works together with the Social Affairs Ministry.

A child’s search for help can come in different ways. At the Bambu Apus Safe House, children who are victims of abuse might arrive there escorted by the police or staff of a children’s NGO. Some might be so desperate that the children come by themselves on an ojek (motorcycle taxi) or in a cab.

When that happens, Hasrifah has to chip in with at Bambu Apus staff to pay for the ojek or taxi fare. “They [the children] would not have the money to pay the taxi fare, so we chip in to pay,” she said.

The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Mon, December 03 2012

Government challenged in preparing centers for juvenile offenders

The 2012 Juvenile Justice System Law is slated go into effect in July of next year if all implementing regulations are stipulated on-time. Then, rulings for juvenile offenders as “children of the state”, which are children who are placed in child detention centers under the State’s care until they turn 18, will no longer exist.

Juvenile offenders, who carried out a crime with a penalty of less than seven years, will instead be returned to their families, assigned to community service or placed in social welfare centers under the Social Affairs Ministry or regional social agencies.

While social workers embrace the restorative justice approach for juvenile delinquents, there is a sense of apprehension on how best to accommodate juvenile offenders in rehabilitation centers. “There is a quite heavy risk for us,” said Syaiman, head of the Taruna Jaya Youth Education Center in Tebet, South Jakarta.

Syaiman was sitting in his office at the Taruna Jaya Youth Center. The center is located in a greenery-filled area of Tebet, secluded with its own road entrance from Jl. Tebet Barat Raya. At the moment, the center that provides vocational skills for young school drop-outs supports 70 children from poor families in Jakarta. The screeching sound of welding from one of the vocational classes lightly floats in the air.

“We’ve been informed by the Social Affairs Ministry about the new policy,” he said. “But, we need time to prepare all the necessary arrangements,” he added.

“It would be impossible to immediately transfer children from detention centers to be placed here. We have to prepare the infrastructure and there are different treatments for neglected children and children of the state. That’s not to say that we’re moving the detention center here, but we need to take precautions so that [children] don’t escape,” he said.

Syaiman added that if a child escapes, he would be legally responsible.

The change in the juvenile justice system in Indonesia is bringing new development in dealing with juvenile delinquency. The 2012 law on juvenile justice system replaces the 1997 juvenile court system deemed unaccommodating to children’s rights. The new law increased the age of children who could be processed through the judiciary system for criminal offense from 8 to 12-years-old. Furthermore, only children over the age of 14 are allowed to be taken into custody. Imprisonment is the last resort according to the law on juvenile justice system, and diversion or an out of court settlement is highly advised.

Another change is the elimination of the status child of the state, a form of rehabilitative punishment for juvenile offenders who could not be returned to the community for reasons such as not having any relatives and other reasons under judge’s discretion. A child of the state is under the care of the state in the juvenile detention center until he reaches the young adult age of 18. Currently, there are 115 such “childs of the state” in Indonesia.

The Social Affairs Ministry subdivision head in charge of children facing the law, Puti Hairida, said that a year after the juvenile justice system in Indonesia has been in effect, children of the state should no longer be in prisons. The restorative justice approach to juvenile delinquency means that the Social Affairs Ministry has a bigger task with the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders than the Law and Human Rights Ministry. Puti is candid in saying that the mandate given to her ministry is a tough one.

“Within five years, we have to set up social welfare centers for children in each province in Indonesia,” she said. Currently, the ministry only has four centers — in Jakarta, East Nusa Tenggara, South Sulawesi and Central Java — for rehabilitation of juveniles. Each region has its own social affairs agency.

However, presently, the regional social welfare centers are entirely for neglected children from marginalized communities, such as orphans, street children, children of poor families who have dropped out of school and children dealt with psychotropic drugs.

Puti said that the government would utilize existing social welfare centers in regions and religious institutions to accept child offenders who have been referred to social welfare centers. She did not specify the budget needed to set up the social welfare centers and the human resources needed for preparing the child-centered juvenile rehabilitation process. But, Ucu Rahayu, head of Jakarta Social Agency’s children rehabilitation, said that operational costs for one social welfare center in her region was Rp 2 billion (US$208,486).

Like Syaiman, Ucu said that they needed to think about how to ensure that the children would stay in the centers. “Our centers are very open, they can carry out their activities outside the center and interact with the community,” she said. “The centers do not have tall gates, while these children [child offenders] do need some kind of tight surveillance,” she added.

Syaiman said that sometimes, the children at Taruna Jaya would ask permission to go outside of the center’s compound to buy snacks. “But, sometimes they just say that to trick us and they just don’t return,” he said.

“For children who believe that they are not guilty of their crime, they would not want to stay in a place against their will,” he said.

Puti said that there would be challenges in transferring the children from a detention cell to an open social center. “Creating a comfortable atmosphere would not be easy. There will be children who would rebel, especially, a lot of them think that they have done nothing wrong,” she said.

But, Puti said that one thing for adults to keep in mind is: “It’s not their fault that they are in this position. They are victims too … It’s our fault as adults,” she said.

— JP/Prodita Sabarini

The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Mon, December 03 2012, 9:55

Life, interrupted: When children face the law

Recent brawls among high school students left two dead in separate incidents in the city, leading to an outcry on how the chronic problem might be overcome.The Jakarta Post‘s Prodita Sabarini filed the following reports. 

In a movie plot, a murder suspect on the run being caught would be the climax of a police chase scene. But rarely is it the end of the story.

Fitra Rahmadani, 19, who police suspect to be the culprit in the death of Alawy Yusianto Putra, 15, a first-year student caught up in the decades-old warring tradition between two elite South Jakarta state schools, SMA 70 and SMA 6, last month, was arrested last Thursday.

Police found him in a rented room in Sleman, Yogyakarta. Detectives allege that Fitra stabbed Alawy with a sickle during a brawl between students of the two high schools
on Sept. 24.

Two days after Alawy’s death, another teenager, Deni Yanuar lost his life in a brawl in Manggarai, Jakarta, between SMK Yayasan Karya 66 and SMK Kartika Zeni vocational school students. Police have also arrested suspects in Deni’s murder.

Alawy’s killing has become the country’s highest profile criminal case involving students. It has brought the old issue of violent high school rivalry to the fore once again.

But the deaths of Alawy and Deni and Fitra’s arrest not only raise the issue of unchecked school rivalries. The police investigations, which include minors being named as witnesses and subject to police interrogation, also raise the issue of the rights of children facing the law.

Juvenile delinquency in Indonesia has continued to rise each year. The government Commission on Child Protection (KPAI) has reported that each year around 7,000 children come before the law and that 80 percent end up convicted and sentenced to prison.

The National Commission on Child Protection (Komnas PA), a non-governmental organization focusing on child’s rights reported that in the first quarter of this year there were 2,008 cases of juvenile crimes. Komnas PA said that they found 2,508 cases last year, higher than the 2,413 cases in 2010.

The House of Representatives this year passed a law on juvenile justice, which aims to protect children’s rights during the criminal investigation process. The new law replaces the old 1997 Law on juvenile courts and promotes restorative justice for children facing the law. The new law also rules that only children above the age of 12 can be criminally processed; but only those 14 and over can be detained. Implementing regulations for the new law, however, have yet to be issued. Nevertheless, Indonesian children are protected by the 2002 Law on child protection. Indonesia has also ratified the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Being 19, Fitra would not be eligible for the protections entailed in the child protection law.

Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said that anyone questioned by them had provided their own defense counsel, in line with the law that minors be accompanied by legal representatives when dealing with the authorities. The South Jakarta Police have so far questioned all of the 15 students of SMA 70 allegedly involved in the brawl.

In the absence of defense counsel during the legal processes any charges made against minors should be annulled, Komnas PA chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait said.

The high profile character of the SMA 70 — SMA 6 student brawl case will almost certainly ensure public scrutiny of the police investigation process. For instance, the Jakarta Working Group on Child Protection Seto Mulyadi reportedly plans to visit Fitra.

High-profile cases where the child has access to legal representation, such as the case of A, 14, who was charged with partaking in the murder of a father and son in Bojong Gede, Bogor, could see the possibility of the child actually undertaking restorative justice. Komnas PA provided legal assistance to A during his legal process. Arist said that in the end A was sent to a rehabilitation center for seven years.

“He did not end up in prison, he can still go to school,” he said. A’s school was also outside the rehabilitation center, so he was not confined to a cell, Arist said.

But in smaller and less publicized cases, children are at risk of being abused and even tortured during investigations. They also face the risk of being denied their rights to a legal defense and to a fair trial.

A damning report by the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) on violations of children’s rights when facing the law showed that most juvenile offenders in Greater Jakarta experienced torture by the police. LBH Jakarta carried out a survey between January 2011 to 2012 on 100 children detained at the Tangerang correctional facility for male and female juvenile offenders as well as the Pondok Bambu prison in East Jakarta.

From the findings of the survey, the LBH concluded that “torture was institutionalized”, which meant that intentional acts of physical and psychological harm were carried out by state officials or under the orders of state officials, with the purpose of discrimination or extracting information or confessions.

Nearly all respondents said they experienced torture during arrest and police interrogations and more than 70 percent during incarceration.

Apart from being yelled at and being lied to, they had their hair pulled, had guns pointed at them, were burnt by cigarettes and stripped naked. One respondent said has was shot at, and six said they were electrocuted. Respondents also reported rape and other forms of sexual abuse.

“Our finding shows that the main perpetrators [of torture] are the police. The intensity of forms of torture are no different form those experienced by adults,” Restaria Hutabarat, LBH Jakarta’s head of research division said. LBH Jakarta has also released a report on police brutality. According to LBH data, the number of wrongful arrests and officers allegedly torturing people during questioning increased to 75 percent in 2011 from 66.7 percent in 2010.

Many of the juvenile offenders sentenced to prison come from low-income families whose parents work in the informal sector. The findings also shatter the myth that most juvenile crime is carried out by street children; Restaria said more than 90 percent of juvenile offenders were living with their parents and were still in school.

Syahri “Koko” Ramadhan, 19, was one such victim of police brutality. In 2009, when he was still 15, his neighborhood leader reported him to the police for allegedly stealing his laptop and handphone. Police arrested him and to make him confess, Koko said police beat him up. Koko only lasted three days of such interrogation. “I thought to myself, how can I make them stop? So, I made up a story and pretended that I stole the stuff,” he said. Syahri was released without charge as the real perpetrator was caught and confessed that he was the thief.

Syahri’s uncle Hermiansyah said that police told Koko’s mother that she should provide money if she wanted her son to be released. Koko is now suing the police for torture and wrongful arrest.

Rikwanto said the police followed the laws on child protection and on juvenile courts when dealing with juvenile offenders. Commenting on the LBH’s finding on police torture, he said that interrogations were standard procedures that the police carried out. He said that people might perceive the interrogation methods as harsh. “But police officers have a duty to produce dossiers,” he said.

Commenting on restorative justive, where children are placed under Social Affairs Ministry monitoring or returned to their parents, Rikwanto said that it all depended on the type of crime. “If the children commit a serious crime, then they have to be prosecuted,” he said.

Apong Herlina, deputy head of KPAI, however said that sending children to prison was not the answer to juvenile delinquency. She said that children’s prisons should be abolished altogether and that regional administrations should be responsible for the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. “A lot of prisons in Indonesia are not child friendly. They are overcrowded, the children mix with adults, there’s not much rehabilitation,” said Apong, the former head of LBH Jakarta.

Arist also said imprisoning children should be the last resort. “Prisons are like a school for criminals, they learn more about crime and risk coming out of prison being proud of their status as ex-convicts”.

The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Fri, October 05 2012

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

Youth stuck in violent cycle

Following the brawls that led to the deaths of two students last month, there is a sense that the jailing of juvenile delinquents and police brutality when dealing with minors facing the law is creating a cycle of violence.

Most of the children imprisoned in Greater Jakarta were tortured by the police during their arrest or interrogations, according to a study conducted by the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) that covered the 12-month period prior to January 2012.

Noted child advocate Arist Merdeka Sirait said that incarcerating youth offenders would not solve the problem of juvenile crime, as the nation’s prison system was an infamous “school” for criminals.

In the first case of its kind, the Cibinong District Court in Bogor, West Java, on Thursday heard testimony in the civil case filed against the police by Syahri Ramadhan, 19.

“The police should not get away with beating kids,” Syahri told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday at the garage in Tebet, South Jakarta, where he works as a mechanic.

Syahri, who alleged that he was tortured by officers who questioned him when he was a minor, has been challenging the “brown line” of the National Police. He has filed suit, claiming that he was falsely arrested by officers assigned to the Bojong Gede police precinct in Bogor.

Police detained Syahri in connection with a robbery when he was 15; during interrogations, investigators allegedly tortured him to make him confess, Syahri said.

Syahri was found innocent by the Cibinong District Court, but not before he spent two months in jail. He later dropped out of junior high school out of a sense of shame, Syahri said.

Syahri’s attorney, Maruli Rajagukguk from the LBH Jakarta, said that suing the police for false arrest or torture would challenge people’s complacency about the brutal and illegal treatment of minors at the hands of law enforcement officers.

Maruli said that the police needed to be “held accountable” to deter similar bad behavior from their peers.

Separately, police have made little progress in their investigation of the killing of SMA 6 high school student Alawy Yusianto Putra on Sept. 24.

Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said on Thursday that detectives had finished questioning witnesses. The only suspect named in the homicide investigation remains SMA 70 student FR.

Rikwanto said that detectives had concluded that the students from both schools had asked nearby street vendors to store their machetes and other weapons used in the brawl.

Two days after Alawy’s death, Deni Yanuar, a first-year student in Manggarai, was killed in another high school brawl.

Three students of SMK Kartika Zeni vocational high school were arrested following his death.

The National Commission on Child Protection (Komnas PA), an NGO focusing on children’s rights, reported that in the first quarter of this year there were 2,008 cases of juvenile crimes.

The House of Representatives this year passed a law on juvenile justice, which aims to protect children’s rights during the criminal investigation process. The new law also rules that only children above the age of 12 can be criminally processed; and only those 14 and over can be detained.

Implementing regulations for the new law, however, have yet to be issued. Nevertheless, children are protected by the 2002 Law on Child Protection. Indonesia has also ratified the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. (aml)

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