Rights groups report police violence on May Day to human rights commission

Kompas – May 15, 2019
Hundreds of youths wearing black arrested in Bandung – May 1, 2019 (Kompas)
Hundreds of youths wearing black arrested in Bandung – May 1, 2019 (Kompas)

Rakhmat Nur Hakim, Jakarta – The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) have reported the Bandung police to the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) for alleged violence committed at a May Day rally in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung.

YLBHI Advocacy Department Chairperson Muhammad Isnur said that the findings on the alleged violence are based on the testimonies of the victims, namely the protesters who were arrested by police on May 1.

“We consider it important to conduct a review of this because this is the first time that violence has occurred on such a massive and brutal scale”, said Isnur at the Komnas HAM offices in Manggarai, Central Jakarta, on Wednesday May 15.

Based on the group’s findings, around 50 people were arrested and then taken to the Bandung municipal police headquarters.

Isnur revealed that the arrests were carried out indiscriminately. He said that the police did not differentiate between protesters who were suspected of being part of the so-called anarcho-sydiclist group and those taking part in the May Day rally who were forcibly arrested.

As a consequence, those taking part in the Labour Day action from the People’s Anti-Capitalist Movement (Gerak), which is made up of several different organisations, were also arrested.

Supinah, who represented Gerak at the Komnas HAM offices, stated that they did not do anything anarchistic at all during the commemoration of Labour Day. He and his organisation only gave a speech to the crowd.

“We were taking a rest in front of the Borromeus hospital after giving a speech, then a Dalmas (crowd control) vehicle and the Prabu Team (tactical response team) and Raisa (crowd control) who were using a megaphone drove away protesters in black (clothing). They fired warning shots several times”, said Supinah.

Upon hearing the warning shots, Supinah and his colleagues ran away, then headed to the Gedung Sate building (the governor’s office) to give speeches again. It turned out however that 14 of his colleagues had been arrested in front of the Borromeus hospital for no clear reason.

They were arrested along with hundreds of others wearing black clothing which were later to be referred to an  “anarcho-sydiclist group”.

Isnur added that the police also intimidated journalists photographing the people in black being arrested in front of the Borromeus hospital. He said the police confiscated cameras belonging to two journalists and deleted the photos of the arrests.

In addition to this people were assaulted and stripped during the arrests and some 50 arrested people were forced into a truck with a capacity of only 30 and taken to the Bandung municipal police headquarters.

“Because of this were are urging Komnas HAM to setup a complaints post in Bandung to record the facts of what happened to those joining the action when they were arrested by police”, explained Isnur.

“Second, [we are] urging the Kapolri [national police chief] to question the Bandung Kapolrestabes [municipal police chief], bearing in mind that the arrests were arbitrary, and the Kapolrestabes should be held liable for the acts of violence and intimidation as the highest ranking officer for the area who gave the order to make the arrests”, he continued.

Earlier the Bandung municipal police arrested hundreds of youths wearing black clothing during the May Day commemorations on May 1 at the Gedung Sate building. They were arrested on the ground that they committed vandalism. In addition to this, a number of women and underage girls were also arrested.

Bandung police chief Senior Commissioner Irman Sugema said that the youths were arrested not far from the Gedung Sate building and gave assurances that the group was not from a trade union.

“Today is the commemoration of May Day. Workers have come to Bandung from various cities in Jabar [West Java}. Behind this there was a group who were not actually workers which comprised a single group identified by all black [clothing] and as it turned out there was friction between them and the workers”, said Sugema.

Sugema said that that based on reports by members of the public the group drew graffiti on a workers’ vehicle intending to go to the Gedung Sate building. Police also found sharp weapons and alcoholic beverages.

“Information from the public and local people was that they used paint to make graffiti on the workers’ car. So we took action in order to prevent potential social conflict between this group and workers”, he said.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Kontras dan YLBHI Laporkan Kekerasan Penanganan May Day oleh Polisi ke Komnas HAM “.]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2019/05/15/13403301/kontras-dan-ylbhi-laporkan-kekerasan-penanganan-may-day-oleh-polisi-ke