13 September 2010
Detachment 88, Torture, Australian Funding...
I am guessing that Kev '07 has not actually had to have any discussions on this hot potato just yet, but rest assured these happy chats are on the horizon. Some officials from the Australian Embassy in Jakarta have already done some preliminary leg work in determining whether the allegations have any substance. It would be a rare occurrence in Indonesia if this sort of smoke was not based on a little fire somewhere. The chances are that there is some substance to these allegations.
So, what are the allegations? Detachment 88 is a special Indonesian police unit that was created to be at the forefront of counter terrorism initiatives in Indonesia. The unit receives substantial levels of funding, and training, from the Australian government. Detachment 88 was formed in the wake of the Bali Bombings. The number 88 represents the number of Australians who lost their lives in the first Bali Bombings. Other meanings for the number 88 range from the number 8 looks like a pair of handcuffs to 8 being a lucky number.
The allegations are that Detachment 88 were responsible for the torture of a number of activists / separatists in the province of Maluku from 2007 through to 2010. The torture includes beatings with wooden and steel bars, forced sexual activity, being burned with lit cigarettes, plastic bags being placed over prisoners' heads, and being stabbed with nails and other sharp objects.
This is a "no brainer". Australia must stop all funding to Detachment 88 pending a review of the allegations. If the allegations do not pan out, then the funding can resume with a much greater level of confidence in the understanding that the money is being used for the purposes intended. If the allegations are proved, then those guilty of committing crimes must be prosecuted to the full extent possible under Indonesian law.
Paying others to do our dirty work in ensuring that we remain safe as we travel in Indonesia does not allow us to hide behind the claim that end justifies the means or that we should turn a blind eye to the occasional indiscretion.
Are we prepared to let Detachment 88 torture Indonesians under the guise of counter-terrorism when really what they are doing is seeking to suppress domestic political dissent? Are the human rights of our neighbours negotiable because they are there and we are here?
What price are we prepared to pay for safety and freedom from fear?