Sunday, 10 May 2009

Indonesian Disgrace

Indonesia, like most Asian countries have harsh drug laws which can include long jail terms and the death penalty. While the more spectacular busts might attract attention here, what we don’t hear much about are the many Aussies being jailed in these countries for months or even years for possessing just a small amount of illicit drugs. The Bali 9 and Schapelle Corby are household names for their drug smuggling charges in Indonesia and the media made sure they would all be remembered. But what about Jason McIntyre who faces 10 years in jail for 5 grams of hash or Shane Demos who got 8 months for having 5.9g of dried hash and 0.3g of heroin? In Australia, these charges would not lead to jail time and that’s if they made it to court at all. Maybe we should look at the strange circumstances and possible corruption involving drug arrests in Indonesia. Why would Jason McIntyre be facing 10 years jail when he had fewer drugs than Shane Demos? Neither had a criminal record and the drugs they had were for personal use but Shane Demos was given (only) 8 months. Why wouldn’t the Indonesian court accept certain requests for forensic evidence from Schapelle Corby’s legal team? Why did the Australian Federal Police (AFP) feel obliged to tip off the Indonesian authorities about the Bali 9 rather than making the arrest themselves. Especially considering that the AFP’s decision was most certainly condemning the Bali 9 to the death penalty. Why was a request by Schapelle Corby’s legal team for important CCTV footage from Qantas denied? Where was the the Australian government on this? The addition of shifty behaviour from Australia must also raise some questions.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, when questioned on ABC radio, arrogantly declared that he had no control over such issues, stating: “I’m not the minister for tapes.” He also made clear that, apart from some limited assistance to Corby’s lawyers and private talks with Indonesian foreign affairs officials, there would be no political intervention by Canberra.
-Muted response by Canberra as Australian woman faces death penalty in Indonesia -
We all know that Alexander Downer is a lying, poncy sleaze but the whole government clammed up. When Schapelle Corby’s legal team requested finger prints from the inner bag containing the cannabis, the Indonesian court denied the request and then allowed the bag to be handled without gloves by anyone. It was an obvious flaw in the investigation but neither the AFP nor the Australian government said a word. Barbaric Drug Laws What is interesting to know is that extreme drug laws have been proven not to significantly deter drug use but many countries still continue with their draconian drug laws. The US is a classic example where harsh laws have done nothing to halt the uptake of drugs and ironically they have the world’s highest rate of drug use. Some countries like Indonesia are actually proud of catching and executing drug related criminals and are not afraid to say so.
To give them a lesson, drug traffickers must be executed immediately
-General Sutanto. Indonesian National Police Chief and Chairman of the National Anti-Narcotic Body
Indonesia isn’t alone when it comes to barbaric drug policies. Thailand, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, China etc. are all guilty of human rights violations where it’s not only their drug laws but their so called rehabilitation for drug addicts. The latest International Harm Reduction Conference (IHRA) held in Bangkok last week exposed the shameful behaviour of these countries and called on the world to enforce human rights and harm reduction procedures. Under the guise of drug addiction treatment, these countries are complicit in torture and abuse for those detained in “work camps” or compulsory treatment centres. The spread of HIV/AIDS and Hep C is epidemic, methadone is rare, addicts are beaten, tortured and forced to live in sub-human conditions. When released, they are often abandoned by their families and seen as outcasts which inevitably leads back to drug abuse. Below is an article from the Drink and Drug News newsletter reporting on the IHRA conference.
Describing experiences that spanned 30 years in Malaysian drug dependence treatment centres, Shaharudin bin Ali Umar showed photographs of weapons used to discipline him and the scars he had suffered from repeated beatings. 'If you are suspected as a drug user you are given compulsory treatment and kept under observation. If you relapse you get more jail sentences and lashes,' he explained. 'But the result is not effective – there is a 70 to 90 per cent rate of return to drug use.' The military style discipline and abuse included beatings with baseball bats and bricks and being burned on his genitals with a lighter. 'The scars may finally have healed, but the bad memories remain forever,' he said. 'I was humiliated and beaten until I forgot what pain is.' Interrogation began at the admission process. Then detoxification took between two weeks and a month,during which 'when the guard changed they started torturing us – humiliating torture I feel too shy to tell you'. A medical check-up and 'orientation process' were followed by a phasing system,which involved 'being beaten by a religious teacher and treated as animals'. While hopeful that changes were on the horizon,he said progress was hampered by the impossibly large size of the rehab centres, lack of methadone for detox and constant beatings. 'Harm reduction in Malaysia is like a sandcastle – built up by community organisations and then torn down by enforcement activities,' he said. Srey Mao from Cambodia – whose colleague took over her conference presentation when she became too traumatised to speak about her experiences in a detention centre – told of 'a place where living conditions are not for humans'. Packed into one room 'where they don't care what age or sex you are', and where there was no toilet, food,water,nor mosquito nets,she had seen her friend die from a beating,another drown trying to escape,and a fellow inmate electrocuted. The backdrop to her presentation showed Srey Mao reaching through bars of a crowded cage. 'Srey Mao would like this facility closed,' said her colleague. 'She would like the Cambodian government or anyone who can help,to close this down.'
-Harm Reduction ‘Torn Down By Enforcement’ - Drink and Drug News

One of the major problems with extreme drug laws is the ingrained corruption. Even without the harsh punitive laws, the immense profits from the illegal drug trade is probably the single largest cause of corruption we know of. Although most dependant drug users rarely consider the legal consequences when desperate for their next dose, once caught, it all changes if they are facing a firing squad or decades in prison. This gives incredible power to low ranking police officers who often earn very little and have absolute contempt for drug users.
Indonesia is one of the world's most corrupt countries
-Wiki Travel
Is Indonesia corrupt when it comes to drug arrests? The readers forums in our major newspapers are full of criticism for Indonesia’s legal system since the Bali bombings in 2002. The criticism continued to grow when Schapelle Corby made headlines in 2004 and the Bali 9 in 2005. But not all of the comments were anti-Indonesian as many readers declared Corby and the Bali 9 should be executed because they were drug dealers and should be subject to Indonesian laws. Were the comments made by readers just pure speculation and emotional outpouring or were they based on real life experience? The fact is, Indonesia has a long history of corruption and and bribes are deeply rooted in the legal system. Add into the mix, extremely harsh drug laws with an underpaid police force and you have opened the gates of hell for Indonesia’s drug addicts and their families. For a more detailed look, read the brilliant article below by Nick Perry.
Winning A Battle, Losing The War
Drug users in Indonesia are made vulnerable by current drug laws
Inside Indonesia
By Nick Perry
May 2009

Merry Christina was 26 years old when she and her boyfriend were arrested by police while injecting heroin in a South Jakarta slum. Taken to the district police station, the officers cut Merry a deal: she could have her drugs back and leave the prison without charge if she agreed to ‘service them sexually’. Facing a serious prison sentence if she refused, and struggling with her decade-long heroin addiction, Merry was left with little choice. She agreed to their proposition and the officers returned her drugs. She was then blindfolded and repeatedly raped and physically abused by several officers over a five day period at the station. At the same time, her boyfriend was beaten and tortured in a separate cell. When the ordeal was over Merry and her boyfriend were released without charge. ‘It is widely known among drug-using communities that if you are caught by police and are a woman,’ said Merry, now an NGO worker staying clean through a methadone program, ‘you can just sexually satisfy the officers and there is no need for you to seek legal counsel or face punishment.’ Merry’s experience is one shared by many drug users in Indonesia. Organisations advocating on behalf of drug users in Indonesia have been lobbying for the laws about drug use to be changed; however, they have faced a government that is reluctant to see drug users as victims who need help.

Torture and extortion
The Indonesian government has long claimed to be fighting a ‘war on drugs’. However, since 2006 the number of people abusing substances in Indonesia has risen almost six-fold to 3.2 million. According to a report presented by the Indonesian Coalition for Drug Policy Reform (ICDPR) there has been a correlating spike in human rights abuse cases and social discrimination against drug users nationwide. The ICDPR report draws together years of research conducted across drug-using communities in nine major cities in Indonesia. The research was carried out by the NGO Stigma Foundation (Stigma) and the Law Faculty and HIV/AIDS Research Centre at Atma Jaya University, as well as by the Community Legal Aid Institute. Alarmingly, it found that almost all respondents claimed to have been extorted for money, physically or sexually abused, or tortured by police officers while being detained on drug offences. ‘Even though Indonesia has signed an international ratification against torture, the practice among the police force against drug users is very common, and on the rise,’ said Asmin Fransiska, lecturer on International Human Rights and Law at Atma Jaya University and co-founder of the ICDPR. ‘Women in particular face sexual abuse at the hands of police officers. When they are taken to the police station, they are often forced to strip naked in front of other officers or are simply raped with the threat of imprisonment if they do not agree.’ Testimonies from hundreds of drug users interviewed for the report paint a similarly horrific picture: blindfolded beatings, cigarettes put out on bare flesh, electrocutions and threats of murder. The penalty for possession of a single gram of heroin is currently 15 years which makes extortion another common practice used by police. ‘The common custom is for police to ask how much money you are willing to pay, or what you are willing to do, in order for them to change the offence they arrested you for,’ Fransiska said.

Police blackmail users for information about other users and dealers and reward them with high-quality heroin

Jarot, a former long term heroin user, has been imprisoned three times in the past for heroin possession. After serving time in an overcrowded Jakarta prison, where more than half the inmates are drug addicts and almost ten per cent leave having been infected with HIV, he was willing to do anything to avoid another prison sentence. ‘Police blackmail users for information about other users and dealers and reward them with high-quality heroin,’ Jarot said. ‘They then become cepu [spy].’ Many of the most impoverished drug users are vulnerable to this informal - and highly illegal - relationship with police officers. They lack the cash to bribe themselves out of their convictions and they have an overwhelming addiction to feed. According to Anto Suwanto, Field Coordinator at Stigma, cepu are often the target of reprisal attacks from dealers and other users, and are sometimes even murdered for their apparent betrayals. When asked if he had ever worked as a cepu for the police, Jarot turned away, looking down. After a few moments, he quietly answered, ‘Yes’.

Self-inflicted criminals
The current laws controlling illicit drugs in Indonesia are Law No. 5/1997 on Psychotropics and Law No. 22/1997 on Narcotics. Both laws were introduced under the dictatorial New Order regime but were not repealed or even altered until very recently. The meanings embedded in these laws and the ways they have been implemented have created problems for drug users. There is little distinction made between a drug user and a drug dealer under article 78 of the Narcotics Law. The article makes both criminals deserving severe punishment. According to legal principles there must be a victim and an offender in a crime. However, in this situation, the drug user plays both roles in the offense. This presents something of a conundrum to lawyers fighting for drug users to be treated as addicts who require help, rather than as prisoners requiring lengthy prison terms. The fact that the World Health Organization considers drug use a ‘chronic relapsing brain disease’ is not taken into consideration by judges and lawmakers, explained Professor Irwanto, Chair of the Institute for Research and Community Services at Atma Jaya University. ‘The strange thing is, the law is written as such that the crime has no victim, except oneself. It is like a self-inflicted crime,’ Irwanto said. While Indonesia has taken a hardline stance on drugs for some time, often punishing traffickers with death, a sudden surge in funding for law enforcement in recent years has seen drug users facing an increasing threat of abuse and discrimination. Between 2000 and 2004, drugs were not listed by the government as a major issue to be dealt with, and were discussed in terms of welfare and protecting the youth. However, since 2005, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has deemed narcotic abuse a serious national problem that threatens security as well as religious and moral values. ‘Since 2006, the government has allocated 200 billion rupiah to enforcing the Narcotics Law, which has only resulted in an increase in the deaths of drug users, the number of HIV/AIDS cases and the arrests of drug users,’ said Rido Triawan, a Stigma advocate heavily involved with ICDPR. ‘Data shows that last year, many more people were arrested for using drugs, but only two per cent of the total figure were actually arrested for dealing.’

Reform on the horizon, for better or for worse
Indonesia is currently at a crossroads with its domestic drug policy. With parliament having resumed following the legislative elections on 9 April 2009, soon the newly-elected People’s Representative Council will recommence deliberating an amendment to the National Narcotics Law. This amendment was first submitted for consideration in 2005 by the Department of Law and Human Rights. Groups such as the ICDPR initially thought that this amendment would follow global trends by softening the ‘war on drugs’ ideology and shifting toward a more humane approach toward drug users. In actual fact, if this amendment is passed the situation for drug users and the state of human rights in Indonesia will almost certainly become worse. Ending the criminalisation of drug use is the linchpin of the ICDPR’s alternative approach to drug policy in Indonesia. To ICDPR members’ dismay, neither decriminalisation nor a raft of other crucial reforms were addressed in the proposed amendment to the Narcotics Law. If anything, this amendment will upgrade the criminal status of drug users and equip police with new powers to deal with them. Currently, a user can be legally detained for a maximum 24 hours, whereas the amendment will extend that detention to 72 hours. This not only increases the likelihood and opportunity for abuse to occur, it also throws potentially vulnerable addicts into an already overcrowded prison system rife with drug abuse, HIV/AIDS and violence. Another issue in prison is intimidation, explained Fransiska. Human rights lawyers are finding it increasingly difficult to defend users accused of possession because police pressure them into believing that if they fight the charges, they will receive a harsher sentence. ‘Sometimes they [drug users] will express interest in seeing a lawyer, but then after a night in prison, they suddenly change their mind. They claim they never wanted a lawyer, or they don’t know you, or that you are lying,’ Fransiska said. ‘Police are intimidating users and interfering with their proper legal rights.’ ‘Women are particularly reluctant to discuss their abuse, because they are afraid both society and their families will stigmatise them and be ashamed of the sexual abuse they have suffered,’ Fransiska said. After Sekar Wulan Sari was arrested for heroin possession, police officers threatened to sexually assault her if her boyfriend did not return with a bribe of several million rupiah for her release. After being exiled from her family, and following a lengthy rehabilitation process, Wulan helped form the Stigma Foundation. She understands first hand the risks posed by harsh articles in the amendment, particularly those that encourage the public to identify drug users in their neighbourhoods and families. ‘Not only are drug users being criminalised by the state, but now families and society are being threatened. Under the amendment, if you are aware of a drug user in your area or in your family and don’t report them to police, you could face court or prison,’ Wulan said. According to Fransiska, the responsibility for resolving drug issues should not be forced upon the community, particularly when law enforcement agencies are simply ‘incapable of carrying out their duties'.

After Sekar Wulan Sari was arrested for heroin possession, police officers threatened to sexually assault her if her boyfriend did not return with a bribe of several million rupiah for her release

The planned reform has thrust the death penalty for drug offences back into the limelight. If passed, the maximum penalty for possession of one gram of heroin will be increased from 15 years prison to death, providing police with even greater ammunition to leverage drug users for money and gratification.

Lobbying for a black campaign
ICDPR members admit that tackling law reform in Indonesia is complicated and overwhelming, but they do not ‘view laws as being almost untouchable’, as Fransiska claims many organisations continue to do. The ICDPR have lobbied the government through international mechanisms as well as by directly targeting politicians with mixed results. The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Vienna on 11 March 2008 to review the effectiveness of the last decade of international drug policy. The Indonesian government sent a delegation of Health, Education, Security and National Narcotic Agency (BNN) representatives who signed an international ‘Political Declaration’ on narcotics. The ICDPR sent its report to Vienna as a means of lobbying international states, particularly progressive European countries which provide funding to Indonesia, to encourage the government to change its human rights and drugs policy. The UN system tends not to cast judgements on particular governments, so the Indonesian delegation essentially signed the agreement without ever being directly addressed about its own domestic policy. ‘It seems the meeting [in Vienna] was fairly non-transparent,’ said Professor Irwanto, ‘with Indonesia being represented by people who may not have necessarily understood the real issue of drug abuse.’ When coalition members met with parliamentarians on 10 December last year for International Human Rights Day, they were surprised to learn that many politicians believed drug users were victims and supported, in theory, a shift toward drug policies that focused on decriminalising drug use. But lobbying for support from legislative candidates in the lead up to the general elections was virtually impossible as being seen as being soft on drugs remains a potential source of ‘black campaigns against their re-election efforts’, Fransiska said. Even though the amendment has not yet been passed, the ICDPR is pessimistic about its chances of being rejected by the incoming parliament. Stigma is focusing its attention on younger candidates linked to NGOs in the hope that future legislators will have a fresh perspective about the current perpetual cycle of targeting drug users and ignoring human rights abuses. ‘After we know who the legislative members are, we will approach them in order to get support for our work,’ said Ricky Gunawan, program director at the Community Legal Aid Institute, after the recent elections. With newly-elected legislators to take their seats in the coming months, and with the ICDPR planning to meet once again with representatives from the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, National AIDS Commission, Supreme Court and Ministry of Health, their overarching concern now is that many of the steps toward reform made in past months by advocates may have been in vain.

Nick Perry is currently living in Indonesia where he is the subeditor on the national news desk at the Jakarta Post newspaper. Nick holds a Bachelor in Communications (Journalism) degree from the University of Technology, Sydney, and regularly submits articles for publications both in Indonesia and abroad.


Anonymous said...

Outstanding article.

If only more people could see.....

Gledwood said...

Do you know what: I think part of it is they know drugs is our achilles heel as Westerners and the best chance they have of catching us out. Then, labelled criminals and convicts they finally have the upper hand over us and the chance to treat us the way they've always dreamed of doing. I am sure there's a racist angle to all this...

I think it's barbaric that sentences can be "reduced" from death to life against the convict's will. I would be incredibly pissed off if this happened to me. If I got caught smuggling in one of those countries and was faced with "life" in one of their prisons I'd take death any time!!

I have noticed you seem to have far far FAR more arrests and trouble on that SE Asia to Australia drugs route than other one worldwide. I think this must be because the heroin is imported into Europe in bulk shipments, whereas Australian criminal gangs rely on individual couriers far more: hence all those ruined lives. it makes me really sad and angry just thinking about it ...

Gledwood said...

ps there's a British girl about to go on trial in Louse, sorry Laos, for 680g heroin. Clever girl: she got herself pregnant and pregnant women aren't allowed to face firing squad. Well: clever if you want to live through all that crap. personally I think she must be insane to but that's just me...

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Anon & Gleds

If only more people could see.....Unfortunately, because drugs are involved, many people won't care. To them drug users are scum and drug dealers should be executed.

Indonesian users have it even worse than us because they have to live with the laws daily. I think it's not something against westerners but against users.

I can't imagine what a prisoners goes through in one of these over crowded, sub-human jails. It's disgraceful! Death seems like an easy way out.

THR said...

Good work, Terry.

Gledwood, I thought the woman in Laos was pregnant as a result of having been raped by prison guards. I read an article the other day indicating that she had to deny having been raped, or else she would face the firing squad, because Laos has no restrictions on executing pregnant women.

rougevert said...

You can get some fantastic over-the-counter drugs in Indonesia, no questions asked...


Terry Wright said...

Thanks THR & YSM.

Why do I have no problem believing you THR? It sounds exactly like the type of hell these countries put users through.

Same to you YSM. I have no problem believing that the Indonesian government doesn't give a shit about prescription meds because they are taxed. They can't legally tax illicit drugs so they impose their own 'special' tax via bribes and rape.

Gledwood said...

I read a memoir by an Aussie caught trying to smuggle heroin out of Thailand. Can't recall the title but it's subtitled "12 years in a Thai prison" and has all the horror stories you'd expect plus a few more.
I did find it suspicious, e.g. that despite what he claimed about the food, when he got pardonned he was very obviously of a normal, healthy weight and not underweight... (maybe they fed him up, who knows?)

Gledwood said...

ps did you know in Dubai a British woman got slammed in jail just for having an opiate IN HER URINE. She had never taken this in Dubai, but in Britain. The residue was in her piss. And it took a British dr. to confirm he'd prescribed this and all rigmorole b4 finally she got out.

My point would be what difference does a prescription make? That only makes it valid to possess the drugs in the UK.
And 2: what sample of the drug did they get? Metabolytes are not samples, hence what proof of possession??!?

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Gleds.

I have just read about a Brit visiting some relatives in Africa and on the way back, the plane had to refuel in Dubai. For some reason they had to get off and he was suddenly hauled away to jail. The Dubai customs found a speck of cannabis on his shoe which was so small it could not be seen with the naked eye.

What a joke!

Anonymous said...

shane demos got 8 months cause he payed 30 grand to some one i got in a fight with him 2 years previous to his arrest and he sued me for 90 grand ,he is a scumbag and he has a huge criminal record, dunno where you get your info