Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Briefing 44 / Asia

Aceh: So Far, So Good

The Aceh peace process is working beyond all expectations. Guerrillas of the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) have turned in the required number of weapons.

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I. Overview

The Aceh peace process is working beyond all expectations. Guerrillas of the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) have turned in the required number of weapons. The Indonesian military (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI) has withdrawn troops on schedule. The threat of militia violence has not materialised. Amnestied prisoners have returned home without incident. The international Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM), led by the European Union's Peter Feith, has quickly and professionally resolved the few violent incidents between GAM and the TNI. A new law on local government in Aceh, incorporating provisions of the 15 August 2005 peace agreement signed in Helsinki, has been drafted in consultation with broad sectors of the Acehnese public and GAM, and submitted to the Indonesian parliament. While there are still challenges, the peace process has active support from the highest levels of the Indonesian government, and Acehnese who were sceptical at the outset that it could hold are slowly beginning to change their minds.

The peace process now has entered a critical stage on two fronts. The first of these involves the reintegration of former GAM members into civilian life. While many combatants have returned spontaneously to their communities, most are unemployed. Disagreement between GAM leaders and the government over whether cash payments to facilitate reintegration should be made directly to individual combatants or channelled through GAM commanders is holding up more comprehensive programs to establish new livelihoods. It also appears to be creating some friction within GAM itself. If the problem is not resolved, the danger in the long term is that bored or jobless ex-combatants will turn to crime or seek to resume fighting.

The second front is the legal process of incorporating the provisions of the 15 August agreement into a new law that must be adopted by the Indonesian parliament. The transformation of GAM from an armed movement to a political one hinges on this law, particularly its provisions on local political parties and the mechanics of local elections. The question is whether the parliament will accept the Acehnese draft without serious revisions or dilutions. While the prospects look brighter now than they did several months ago, a new issue has arisen that is causing anxiety in Aceh: whether there will be any reference in the final version to the possibility that Aceh in the future can be divided into more than one province. Such a reference could undermine the consensus in Aceh around the current draft and ultimately, the peace itself. Since wiser heads have prevailed thus far every time a potential obstacle has arisen, there is every reason to believe that a way will be found around this problem, too.

This briefing records the key achievements a year after the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated Aceh and reordered the political landscape. It also highlights some of the remaining possible bumps in the road to a lasting peace.

Jakarta/Brussels, 13 December 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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