INDONESIA: Anti-terror unit should be evaluated in wake of suicide bombing

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemns the suicide bombing and explosion in Kampung Melayu, Jakarta, Indonesia, which killed five persons and injured 10. Three police officers and two alleged perpetrators died in the blast.

In the last one year, the suicide bombing in Kampung Melayu is the second such incident. Earlier, there was a suicide blast in Sarinah, Thamrin Jakarta on 14 January 2016, in which four people died and some 23 were injured. Terrorist attacks in Indonesia are unfortunately not new; there have been bomb blasts in Bali (2002), in the Bursa Efek Jakarta (2000), in Plaza Atrimum (2001), in JW Marriot (2003), in Kuningan (2004), and in Mega Kuningan (2009).

The question is, why are these blasts repeated despite Indonesia’s establishment of the Special Detachment Anti-Terror Unit (Densus 88) since 2003-2004? Additionally, in the last ten years Indonesia has also received considerable international aid to combat terrorism, including training and financial resources.

The AHRC notes the weak law enforcement against terrorist attacks in Indonesia, particularly at the prevention and punishment stages. For prevention, the government mindset is still dominated by a security approach, wherein the new bill on anti-terrorism to replace existing law No 15 of 2003 aims to provide more space and authority for military and intelligence to be involved in arrest and detention of suspects.

President Joko Widodo has publicly stated that the enactment of the new bill will make combating terrorism easier, and has therefore requested the drafting committee to immediately complete and enact the new bill. Unfortunately, the President is not considering some controversial articles of the bill which are still being discussed and rejected by civil society groups. These groups have submitted their input to revise controversial articles and to ensure that the new bill does not hamper the promotion and protection of human rights in Indonesia.

Rather than issuing new decisions related to combating terrorism, the government should conduct a comprehensive evaluation and audit upon the existing task forces mandated to eradicate terrorism. These are the National Terrorism Agency (BNPT) and the Special Detachment Anti-Terror Unit 88, both of which are led by high ranking police officers. For the last ten years, the Indonesian public is waiting for a transparent and accountable evaluation of these task forces. Despite various incidents of abuse of power and human rights violations committed by Densus 88, the government and the police have yet to seriously evaluate and punish the personnel involved. In the case of Siyono for instance, who was tortured to death by Densus 88 officers, there is no willingness of the police to seriously evaluate the performance of the anti-terror unit. On the contrary, the police tried to silence Siyono’s wife by giving the family IDR 100,000,000 (one hundred million rupiah), equivalent to USD 7,619.

In light of the recent suicide bomb blast and terrorist attack in Kampung Melayu, the AHRC therefore calls on the Indonesian government to seriously evaluate its system and policy on combating terrorism. The government should enhance coordination, communication and also professionalism of the police and its special task forces. Further, the government should not only use a security approach, but also a human rights approach. Therefore, the new bill on terrorism should not be a new instrument to deprive persons of their liberty and violate their rights, but should strengthen law enforcement and protection of human rights and develop clear boundaries between strengthening security and protecting human rights.