Political prisoner Surya Anta Ginting talks about inhuman conditions at detention centres in Jakarta

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On 24 April 2020, Paulus Surya Anta Ginting and five Papuan activists were found guilty of treason for organising a peaceful protest against racism in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta on 28 August 2019. He and four of the activists were sentenced to nine months imprisonment. Another activist was imprisoned for eight months. Surya Anta Ginting has now talked about their incarceration and the inhuman conditions they experienced during police custody at the Mako Brimob Prison and inside the Salemba Detention Center, one of the largest correctional facilities in Indonesia’s overcrowded capital Jakarta. The Papuan news outlet Suara Papua published an article about Surya Ginting’s experience during detention.

Surya Anta Ginting and the other activists were detained for 78 days in isolation cells at the Mako Brimob Prison, where terrorism suspects have been previously detained. According to Ginting, there was only a small ventilation window in the cell with high temperature and insufficient air circulation. He kept the light switched on in order to reduce the risk of getting infectious deceases transmitted by mosquitoes. Surya Anta Ginting said he was not beaten during detention but the isolation inside the cell was almost equal to physical torture.


Jakarta Prison 4On the 88th day of detention, the activists were transferred to the overcrowded Salemba Detention Center, where the five male activists shared one cell with 420 people. The hygienic conditions inside the cell were deplorable as there were only two toilets available inside the cell. Inmates had to sleep on the floor on thin mats (see intro image, source: Suara Papua). Each of the activists had to pay 500.000 Rp for the cell. Inmates who could not afford the fee were forced to sleep in the hallway (see image on the right, source: Suara Papua). “I, Ambros Mulait, Dano Tabuni, Isay Wenda, and Charles Kossay stayed for one month with 420 inmates in a large cell […] Many prisoners and inmates sleep in the hallway because they do not have a ‘ticket’ to the room and cannot pay money weekly for that room. This is the situation in the hallway block.[…] Rich inmates, for example, can buy rooms in Block O for 50-70 million, including the weekly money”, explained Surya Ginting.

The activists had to buy additional food and water to maintain minimum nutritious standards. Inmates who could not afford to buy soap, food, water and other supplies had to earn money as drug dealers, thieves or money collectors. According to Ginting, drugs like methamphetamine are produced and freely distributed inside the correctional facility. The guards are aware of the drug problem but do not intervene. “The upper room behind Dano’s is the “Pharmacy” Room, the methamphetamine saleroom. The prison officers know about this. But I wonder why we were placed in room J18 which has a pharmacy of methamphetamine” said Ginting.  

Surya Ginting stressed that the conditions in other Indonesian detention centre are likely to be worse than inside the Salemba correctional facility. “Salemba Detention Center is a 1A class correctional facility. If 1A class is like this, how bad is the situation of detainees in prisons of lower categories?”