Police officers tortured a student for criticising the actions of police in North Halmahera, North Maluku

On 20 September 2022, four members of the North Halmahera Polres in North Maluku Province in Indonesia tortured an activist and student at the University of Halmahera, Yulius Atu (also called Ongen) for criticising how the police handled the demonstration against the rise in fuel prices that took place earlier a day before. Police dragged, kicked, beat, and forced the victim to apologise to police sniffer dogs.

A demonstration against the rise of fuel prices took place at the North Halmahera Regional Representative Council (DPRD) Office in North Halmahera, North Maluku Province on 19 September 2022. During the protest, Yulius took photos of police officers using sniffer dogs to keep the protest under control. After the rally, the victim uploaded a photo with a WhatsApp status that said, ‘unable to use hands, use sniffer dogs’ (tidak mampu pake tangan, pake anjing pelacak).

One day after the posting, at approximately 09:00 pm, four people showed up at Yulius’s residence looking for him. They didn’t identify themselves as police officers, but it was established later that they were members of the North Halmahera Polres. They hold the rank of junior non-commissioned officers assigned to the Bahayangkara Samapta unit (Satsabhara), specifically in the K-9 squad or animal unit (sniffer dogs) of the Polres. Their names are (with initials): Bripda FK, Bripda SP, Bribda DH, and Bribda B.

Komisi Untuk Orang Hilang (KontraS) revealed that the four perpetrators asked the victim about the identity of a person in a photo. The perpetrators suddenly hit the victim in the face; strangled him and took him out of the house to a public road. While dragging the victim, the perpetrators beat him causing bruises under his eyes, busting his lower lip, and choking him again until he was unconscious. At around 09:35 pm, the four perpetrators took the victim to the North Halmahera Police Station. This is in line with the recognition of the Maluku Regional Police through the Head of Public Relations of the Maluku Regional Police, Kombes Pol Michael Irwan Tamsil. He said, “members of the police visited Yulius in the evening to clarify whether he had written the post or not. However, the victim at that time was evasive and did not admit his actions, so the four officers took the victim to the North Halmahera Polres station”.

KontraS also said that when they arrived at the station, the victim was dragged into a dog kennel and threatened with death. The four perpetrators beat the victim again and scared him by showing him a video of protesters being beaten, implying the victim would suffer the same fate as the protesters detained and arrested for protesting against BBM in Ternate.

The victim begged the perpetrators to stop because he could not bear the pain in his left abdomen but he was forced to roll around on the wet floor and directed to prostrate himself with his hands placed on his back for a long time. They force the victim to push up when he was no longer strong. The victim was then forced to squat and run around the North Halmahera Police Station, roll over on the asphalt road, and run five times around the volleyball court. While forced to carry out these orders, the victim continued to be intimidated and was told to apologise to the sniffer dogs of North Halmahera Police. After being tortured for approximately two hours, the victim was escorted home by one of the perpetrators named Fidi K (FK).

Kombes Pol Michael Irwan Tamsil confirmed that the four personnel committed acts of physical violence at the North Halmahera police station. However, he denied that any police officers forced Yulius to apologise to the dogs. He claimed that the police officers only asked the victim to post a testimony apologising for his post. And that thereafter, Yulius admitted that he was the one who posted the status. That same night, Yulius was sent home.

The victim then went to the hospital to conduct a visum et repertum (a special medical examination). However, this examination requires that the police request it. To obtain this document, the victim returned to the Polres at 2:00 am on 21 September 2022. Kombes Pol said that because it was already past midnight, the SPKT officer told the victim to go to the Regional Police (Polda). After the victim went to Polda, the officer asked the victim to return the next day at approximately 09:00 am. However, the victim never returned. Finally, the victim, through his legal representative, made a report to the North Maluku Polres.

Maluku Regional Police (Polda), through Kombes Pol Michael Irwan Tamsil, promised to act firmly and professionally. He said that under the order of the Regional Chief of Police (Kapolda) the four personnel would be processed ethically and criminally. The four have been detained with ethical violations at the North Halmahera Polres. Although detained at the Polres, both cases are still handled by the North Maluku Polda. The detention means that ethical violations have been proven. As for the alleged criminal offence, according to Kombes Pol, investigations and examination of witnesses are still being carried out. He also said that the investigation has shown that the police officers acted without the knowledge of their superiors, in this case, the North Halmahera Police Chief.

The victim’s lawyer, LBH Marimoi, revealed that the victim was called several times from unknown numbers and intimidated. The unknown person pressured Yulius to retract and withdraw the claims. Yulius’s parents in Loloda, Laba Besar, West Halmahera Regency, were also visited by a member of the Loloda sub-district government, who claimed to represent the Regent of West Halmahera. The person also offered them money and allegedly said that if the family is willing to reconcile, then they will provide whatever the family asks for. However, the victim’s parents refused. Because their child was tortured, they wanted this case to be resolved legally. KontraS and LBH Marimoi, in their press release, urge:

  1. North Maluku Police Chief, to immediately investigate thoroughly and transparently by conducting independent investigations and investigations into alleged incidents of torture and other violations committed by law enforcement officers of the North Halmahera Police. We urge the perpetrators to be sentenced to the maximum penalty to create a deterrent effect for the perpetrators. In addition, we also recommend that the victims and their families be given the broadest possible access to information regarding the ongoing legal process against the perpetrators and stop all efforts to resolve cases using leniency;
  2. The National Police Chief, to remove the North Halmahera Police Chief for allowing this heinous incident to occur by his members;
  3. LPSK, to be proactive in this incident to provide protection to victims, key witnesses, and victims’ families. Furthermore, we also encourage LPSK to formulate compensation in the form of restitution if victims suffer losses as a result of this incident;
  4. Komnas HAM, to investigate alleged human rights violations and monitor the legal process of alleged perpetrators of torture based on their authority allegedly carried out by law enforcement officials of North Halmahera Police.

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Polres Halmahera Utara (1.7253943045349867, 127.9940449593969)
administrative region: Indonesia, North Maluku Province, North Halmahera Regency
total number of victims: one
period of incident: 20.09.2022
perpetrator: police
perpetrator details: Bripda FK, Bripda SP, Bribda DH, and Bribda B.
Issues: torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, freedom of expression
Sources: https://indotimur.com/hukrim/polda-malut-anggota-lakukan-tindakan-fisik-tapi-tidak-dimasukkan-ke-kandang-k-9, https://kontras.org/2022/10/05/usut-secara-tuntas-transparan-dan-akuntabel-peristiwa-penyiksaan-yang-dilakukan-oleh-4-empat-aparat-penegak-hukum-polres-halmahera-utara/
Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolations
1Yulius Ato (Ongen), studentmaleunknownactivistfreedom of expression, torture, ill-treatment