Aceh: Now for the Hard Part
Aceh: Now for the Hard Part
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Briefing 48 / Asia

Aceh: Now for the Hard Part

Just past the half-year mark of the agreement to end the conflict in Aceh, several long-anticipated problems are surfacing.

I. Overview

Just past the half-year mark of the agreement to end the conflict in Aceh, several long-anticipated problems are surfacing. None by itself is grave enough to derail the 15 August 2005 accord between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM); the peace process remains very much on track. But their convergence means that more than ever, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla will have to exert leadership, and international donors will have to constantly assess the political impact of their assistance to prevent any backsliding.

The problems include differences between Jakarta and Aceh over the concept of self-government; efforts to divide the province; questions over who can run in local elections and when those elections take place; urgent employment needs of returning GAM members; and oversight of funding for reintegration programs.

The most contentious issue is the draft law on governing Aceh that is supposed to incorporate the provisions of the 15 August memorandum of understanding (MoU) and replace a 2001 law that gave Aceh “special autonomy” within the Indonesian republic. The ministry of home affairs watered down a draft produced in Aceh through a wide public consultation and submitted the diluted version to the Indonesian parliament. Concern over the weakened bill is not confined to GAM but is shared among all in Aceh – and there are thousands – who took part in the original drafting or in subsequent discussions. Intensive efforts are underway to restore key provisions of the Aceh draft, and there is still a chance a reasonable compromise could emerge.

The campaign to carve two new provinces out of Aceh remains an irritant but appears to have no support from the Yudhoyono goverment.

Another issue, repeatedly flagged by Crisis Group, is the reintegration of GAM members. Securing adequate livelihoods for the 3,000 combatants mentioned in the August agreement was going to be difficult enough, given the massive needs in Aceh after the tsunami. It has become increasingly clear, however, that there are more GAM members needing and expecting reintegration assistance than was previously thought. How to allocate reintegration payments budgeted for 3,000 among a much larger number is as much an issue for GAM as for the government and international agencies, but the program set up to address this in Aceh may cause as many problems as it solves.

A final issue is the role of the European-led Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) if local elections are delayed, as now seems inevitable. Originally scheduled for 26 April 2006, they are now likely to be postponed until late July or August, given both delays in passing the above law and the logistics of post-tsunami registration. This means they will almost certainly take place after the AMM’s newly-extended term expires. The AMM is now scheduled to leave Aceh on 15 June 2006. Many Acehnese are concerned because the pre-election period is precisely when clashes requiring a neutral arbiter may erupt.

Jakarta/Brussels, 29 March 2006

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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