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UN expert calls on Indonesia to stop ill-treatment, torture of prisoners

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak [official website] Friday called on the government of Indonesia [JURIST news archive] to step up efforts at stopping ill-treatment and torture of individuals under police detention. Nowak concluded a two-week visit to the country where he toured various correctional facilities, meeting with government officials and NGOs to make recommendations regarding the legal system's administration of justice. In a press release [text], he acknowledged that Indonesia has made progress since the 1998 ouster of former president Suharto [BBC backgrounder] but said "shortcomings" still exist. Nowak said legal safeguards are "virtually non-existent," especially at the pre-trial stage. He also said that abuse and intimidation at police stations were widespread, indicating that in several instances observers arrived at stations while beatings were in progress. Abuses and poor conditions at detention facilities were more isolated but still a cause for significant concern. Nowak's urged the government to publicly condemn, criminalize, and prosecute instances of torture and ill-treatment. He also called for better access to "courts, lawyers, and independent medical examinations [by] all persons in detention, whether under the penal law or not." Reuters has more.

Indonesia has recently made efforts to improve conditions for prisoners. In August the government reduced sentences [JURIST report] for several of the Bali bombing convicts despite criticism by victims and survivors. Officials said the reduction is a constitutional right afforded to all criminals regardless of their crimes, as part of Indonesia's prisoner remission program conducted annually to mark the country's independence from Dutch colonial rule. Prisoners in good standing typically receive a remission, unless they are death row inmates or serving life sentences.

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