Aceh: A New Chance for Peace
Aceh: A New Chance for Peace
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Briefing 40 / Asia

Aceh: A New Chance for Peace

On 15 August the Indonesian Government and the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) are to sign a peace agreement that offers the best hope yet of ending a conflict that has cost over 9,000 lives since 1976.

On 15 August the Indonesian Government and the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) are to sign a peace agreement that offers the best hope yet of ending a conflict that has cost over 9,000 lives since 1976. But no one should underestimate the difficulties of bringing an end to a 30-year-old conflict. Deep reservoirs of fear and distrust remain. The demobilisation and disarmament phases will be critical, and they are scheduled to begin in a month. Release of GAM prisoners will happen even sooner. Information, communication, and planning are in very short supply. Among the most urgent tasks are:

  • finding appropriate channels for the widest possible dissemination of information about the agreement in Indonesian and Acehnese, with an explanation of how it differs from the failed 2002 agreement;
  • coordinating the different agencies working on amnesty, disarmament, reintegration, monitoring and funding;
  • ensuring that government promises of land, jobs, or social security to various groups are quickly kept; and
  • protecting vulnerable groups, including those who report violations of the agreement.

The mood is upbeat in Jakarta within the government, many of the Acehnese elite, and the diplomatic community. In Aceh itself it is more restrained, as though too much hope was invested the last time. Acehnese had greeted the December 2002 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) with euphoria, only to see it collapse five months later, leading to the imposition of a state of emergency.

The political context is very different this time, however. Both sides appear genuinely committed to making the agreement work; President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Yusuf Kalla have been so deeply involved, particularly Kalla, that they have a personal investment in the agreement's success.

Moreover, GAM was seriously weakened by the military offensives conducted under the state of emergency, beginning in May 2003. Combat fatigue and decimation of its middle ranks appear to have made the prospect of an exit strategy more attractive. Although efforts to restart the peace process began well before, the December 2004 tsunami brought Aceh into the international spotlight, made it politically desirable for both sides to work toward a settlement, offered ways of linking the reconstruction effort and peace process, and ensured the availability of major donor funding outside the government budget.

Peace is not a done deal. There are details to be worked out on everything from amnesties to political participation, each fraught with difficulties. There are worries in Jakarta about concessions that could lead to support for separatist tendencies elsewhere. Ensuring continued support in the capital is as important as keeping the two sides in Aceh on board.

"Can do" excitement is in the air, however, as though the impossible may just be achievable if the problems are carefully analysed and understood and the will to tackle them remains high.

Jakarta/Brussels, 15 August 2005

Op-Ed / Asia

Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force

My four year-old daughter recently came home from her Jakarta kindergarten with a story about a visit to the school from the head of our local police station. 'If there is a robber and he's running away, the policeman will pull out his gun, fire in the air, and if he doesn't stop then he will shoot him in the leg', she recounted breathlessly.

I have spent 25 years working in and around conflict zones, including more than a decade in Indonesia. My reaction might not have been that of the average parent. 'That', I replied, 'is a violation of Perkap Number 8.' Needless to say, my reference to Police Regulation Number 8 of 2009 regarding Implementation of Human Rights Principles and Standards in the Discharge of Duties of the Indonesian National Police was lost on her. She thought the visit was great.

I had recalled Perkap 8 when re-reading the Hansard of the recent sparring between Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr and Victoria Greens Senator Richard Di Natale over the police shooting of protesters in Papua. But it is not just in Papua where questionable use of deadly force by the Indonesian National Police (INP) takes place. It happens across the country. And this was what Perkap 8 was put in place to prevent.

Article 47 of Perkap 8 says that 'the use of firearms shall be allowed only if strictly necessary to preserve human life' and 'firearms may only be used by officers: a. when facing extraordinary circumstances; b. for self defense against threat of death and/or serious injury; c. for the defense of others against threat of death and/or serious injury.' This is Indonesian law, taken from the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, and this is what should be used to assess police actions, wherever in the country they occur.

The fatal shooting on 14 June 2012 of Mako Tabuni, deputy head of the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB), in Jayapura, capital of Papua province, made Senate Estimates in 2012. The shooting of three protesters in Sorong on 30 April 2013, West Papua province, was mentioned in the testy 5 June 2013 exchanges between Senators Carr and Di Natale. You can watch it above.

In the first incident, detectives shot a suspect in the leg as he was running away and then left him to die in a hospital allegedly without making any effort to treat his wounds. In the second, police claim they were threatened by armed KNPB activists. Without more information it is difficult to judge if their response was disproportionate. Police always say they are shooting in self-defense, but it has become such a common excuse that it has started to lose its plausibility.

Cases outside Papua do not garner much attention in Australia, but lethal shootings happen all the time. On 1 September 2011 seven villagers were killed during a rowdy protest against police brutality in the Central Sulawesi district of Buol, a place so obscure even most Indonesians cannot find it on a map.

On 7 March 2013, soldiers burned down a police station in Baturaja, South Sumatra, after their off-duty comrade, First Private Heru Oktavianus, was shot dead by a police officer while speeding away from a traffic violation.

On 8 May 2013 police in Java killed six suspected terrorists in a series of raids. The police usually claim the suspects were armed and resisted arrest. But it is not always true, and many could have almost certainly been captured alive.

Ordinary criminals are shot with distressing frequency, as my daughter's visitor suggests, without any outcry at home or abroad.

Perkap 8 was signed by the then police chief Sutanto, a real reformer. It has not gotten very far. One foreign police officer working on a bilateral community policing program in a large metropolitan command told me he had once seen a copy of the Perkap on the chief's desk but suspected it had been disseminated no further.

Even when progressive regulations or orders are issued and disseminated, they are not always followed. In October 2012, the police chief of Papua, Tito Karnavian, former head of the anti-terrorism unit Detachment 88 (Densus 88), announced that he had banned police from using live ammunition when handling demonstrations in the region. This was progress and it was implemented for some demos, but the deaths in the Sorong case suggest live ammunition was used.

As Article 46 of Perkap 8 says, 'all officers must be trained in the use of power, equipment and firearms that can be used in applying force' and 'must be trained in non-violent techniques and methods.' Training almost 400,000 officers across 33 provinces is a logistical challenge, though it might be a good idea to start with elite units such as Densus 88 or personnel in the Papua provinces.

The new national head of the INP, about to be appointed, might breathe new life into two reforms already in place: implementation of Perkap 8 and Chief Sutanto's other landmark regulation on community policing, Perkap 7. The INP is a very hierarchical organisation that does follow firm orders from above. While its size makes complex reform difficult, its hierarchical nature makes implementing existing regulations with firm orders easier.

The first duty of the incoming INP chief, who reports directly to the president, will be to secure the 2014 elections. Making sure those deployed to safeguard this 'festival of democracy' are properly trained and equipped to use non-lethal force will be an important first step. After a new head of state is elected, he or she should consider issuing a directive that would see Perkap 8 properly implemented. The use of less deadly force could even be politically popular in some parts.

Outside help may also be needed, and this is where Australia comes in. A few decades back, the Victorian state police had a problem of using too much deadly force and created Project Beacon to try to rectify it. They changed the way they thought about the problem, overhauled training, and gave officers on the beat new tools, like pepper spray. Foreign assistance along these lines could help the INP improve performance and increase accountability. Crisis Group has long argued that the INP needs better orders, training, and equipment for the use of non-deadly force.

If the INP is to be more the service it aspires to be rather than the force it is, it needs to shed its military mindset, hold serious post-operation reviews after each fatal incident, and decrease reliance on shooting first and asking questions later, regardless of whether officers are following locally accepted standard procedure. When the time comes and the INP is ready to carry forward the reform of Perkap 8, Australia should be there to help.

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