The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from Padang Legal Aid Institute (LBH Padang) regarding Bukittinggi District Court’s judgment on the case of Alamsyahfudin v. Chief of Bukittinggi Sub-District Police, No. 07/PDT.G/2013.PN.BT. The case was regarding a compensation claim filed by the family of Erik Alamsyah, a victim of torture by six officers of Bukittinggi Sub-district Police. Erik passed away on 30 March 2012, the day when he was arrested and detained by the officers.
The family sued both the six officers and their institution – represented by the Chief of the sub-district police – under articles of the Civil Code approximately equivalent to tort law in common law countries. The family claimed that torture perpetrated by the police against Erik has resulted in damages and suffering; they demanded the defendants pay compensation of IDR 2,407,510,000 (USD 201,719) and offer a public apology.
We note that, on 7 November 2013, a panel of judges consisted of Supardi, Juadra, and Roni Susanta delivered their judgment on the case. The judges accepted the tort claim and ruled that, by torturing Erik Alamsyah, the six officers are responsible for causing damages on the claimant. We consider such judgment to be remarkable, given the scarce ruling in favour of the claimants in torture compensation claim. In 2012, for example, Cibinong District Court dismissed the lawsuit filed by Syahri Ramadhan, a victim of torture and fabrication of charges, against the Chief of Bojong Gede Sub-district Police. The appeal of the district court’s judgment was rejected last year by Bandung High Court on alternative grounds. A few years earlier, Central Jakarta District Court also rejected a legal standing lawsuit on torture filed by a number of civil society organisations. The ruling was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in 2011.
We furthermore consider the ruling on Alamsyahfudin case to be exceptional as the judges upheld that the Chief of Bukittinggi Sub-district Police is equally responsible for causing damage to the claimant under Article 1367 (1) of the Civil Code on respondeat superior (superior responsibility). The judges cited relevant articles in Law No. 2 Year 2002 concerning Indonesian National Police as well as Regulation of Indonesian National Police No. 14 Year 2012 to support their reasoning. Such reasoning is in accordance with international human rights standards on anti-torture. As pointed out by the UN Committee against Torture in its General Comment No. 2: “those exercising superior authority – including public officials – cannot avoid accountability […] for torture or ill-treatment committed by subordinates where they knew or should have known that such impermissible conduct was, or was likely, to occur, and they took no reasonable and necessary preventive measures.”
We were informed that lawsuit against the officers and Bukittinggi Sub-district Court was submitted on the reason of Erik’s family unsatisfactory with the legal proceeding at the criminal court which took place in 2012. The six officers who tortured Erik were found guilty and sentenced to lenient punishment of 10-12 months of imprisonment by the criminal court in Bukittinggi. The criminal court also refused to order the convicted officers to provide Erik’s family with compensation. We are pleased to learn that this judgment satisfies the family in spite of the amount of compensation ordered by the court being less than what was demanded.
This judgment is significant not only for Erik Alamsyah’s family, but also to other victims of torture and their families. At a minimum, it gives hope to the victims seeking justice: there is now a possibility that the courts and judges in Indonesia can rule in their favour. It is expected to encourage the torture victims to pursue all the legal means available against individuals and institutions responsible.
The AHRC is hoping that the remarkable aspects of this judgment that are in accordance with human rights principles will be learned and followed by other courts and judges. We would like, once again, to congratulate Bukittinggi District Court and judges Supardi, Juadra, and Roni Susanta who examined the case.