Criminal Suspects and Forced Confessions: The Indonesian Legal Aid Case Files, 1973-98

Annie Pohlman

University of Queensland

In this paper, I discuss accounts of torture against criminal suspects at the hands of military and police personnel in Indonesia. These accounts are found in the case files of Jakarta’s Legal Aid Institute (LBH-Jakarta), and were made either by the suspects themselves or by members of their families. My focus is on cases handled during the ‘New Order’ military regime (1966-98), and the 148 files which I examine span those compiled by Legal Aid staff from between 1973, shortly after the Institute was founded, and 1998. Very little is known about the abuse of criminal suspects during the New Order. Torture against political detainees under the regime has been well-documented, with extensive evidence of these abuses compiled by human rights groups and survivors regarding the 1965-66, East Timor, Aceh and West Papuan cases. It has only been since the end of the regime that various legal aid and human rights groups across Indonesia have been able to document cases of torture against criminal suspects. This paper presents some of the preliminary findings from these New Order period case files, which show consistent patterns of detainees tortured to confess to crimes, and the use the secret interrogation facilities.


Annie Pohlman teaches Indonesian at The University of Queensland. She is author of Women, Sexual Violence and the Indonesian Killings of 1965-66 (2015) and co-editor of a range of volumes on mass atrocities and traumatic histories. She holds a DECRA to examine torture during Indonesia’s ‘New Order’ regime.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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