Avoid past mistakes if military option inevitable
Avoid past mistakes if military option inevitable
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

Avoid past mistakes if military option inevitable

The government may have given Free Aceh Movement (GAM) an ultimatum on Monday to lay down its arms and accept autonomy or else, but in fact the "or else" has already begun. Both sides are mounting attacks, armed clashes are frequent, and there are no monitors in the field to document what's going on. The question is not whether military operations will begin in two weeks but whether those underway will be significantly increased.

GAM bears a significant share of the blame, though by no means all of it, for the unraveling of the Dec. 9 agreement. But International Crisis Group (ICG) has repeatedly warned that a military approach alone will not solve this conflict and indeed may strengthen support for GAM, especially if civilian casualties are high. There is a flicker of hope that negotiations will resume, but if, in the end, they collapse, it does not mean that the use of force will be any more successful in ending the rebellion.

At the same time, no government willingly tolerates a guerrilla movement on its soil. If the Megawati government cannot persuade GAM, through negotiation or co-optation, to abandon its armed struggle, the brakes on the military will come off.

In that case, the government will need to avoid repeating the mistakes it has made in the past in conducting security operations, if it is going to have any chance of rebuilding credibility and trust in Aceh. Ten steps the government might consider are as follows:

  • Publish rules of engagement. Civilians, not just soldiers, should understand clearly what the rules of engagement are, and these should be published in the national and local media and disseminated as widely as possible through other means.
  • Don't use Mobile Brigade (Brimob). Over the last three years in Aceh, Brimob has developed an unenviable reputation for abusive behavior. Its members tend to be younger, with less training and experience, than soldiers, and their commanders appear to be unable to prevent their preying on civilians when they are not engaged in combat. A significant Brimob presence is likely not only to deepen resentment of the local population, but also to blur the distinction between the Army and police. The government should reconsider any plans to augment Indonesian Military (TNI) forces there with Brimob troops.
  • Give neutral and impartial humanitarian organizations access to the injured, displaced, and detained and to areas where conflict has made it difficult for people to obtain basic goods and services.
  • Keep conflict areas open to journalists and independent observers. The standard practice for military operations in the past has been to shut down conflict areas tightly, making it difficult for journalists and independent observers to go in or for local people to get information out. The idea of "embedding" journalists has not taken root in Indonesia. Clearly there are security risks involved, but transparency should be encouraged wherever possible.
  • Don't use civilian auxiliaries or militias. If military operations are launched, it should be fully uniformed and identifiable soldiers who do the fighting. Too often in the past, the military has made use of local civilians in an effort to avoid accountability or portray the conflict as tantamount to a civil war. Not only does this encourage abuse but it also creates long-term problems with post-conflict reconciliation.
  • Keep conduct of military operations subject to regular and frequent review by civilians. Both the provincial parliament in Banda Aceh and the national parliament in Jakarta have a role here in having hearings that involve both government officials and respected civilians living in affected areas.
  • Ensure that the budget and operating expenses for military operations are fully transparent. The lack of such openness in the past has led to suspicions of skimming and a belief that one side benefit of war is profit for some of those concerned. Such suspicions could be eased by a commitment to a thorough audit by a neutral accounting body of the costs of the operations.
  • Protect human rights and humanitarian workers.The TNI White Book has made clear that the military believes that separatists often try to use human rights organizations as a cover. If law enforcement officials in Aceh have reasonable grounds for suspecting an individual is engaged in a crime, they can arrest the suspect and make public the charges. But military operations must not become a pretext, as they too often have in the past, for the intimidation, arrest, or even occasionally, killing, of individuals trying to document rights violations or provide humanitarian assistance to affected populations.
  • Prosecute violators of human rights and international humanitarian law. There is no question that GAM is also responsible for serious abuses and has not effectively disciplined its own ranks. But as the Indonesian government contemplates launching intensified operations, it should make a clear commitment to investigate reports of human rights violations by security forces and prosecute where appropriate. The recent statement by the Army chief of staff that those responsible for Papua rebel Theys Eluay's murder were "heroes" does not inspire confidence.
  • Root out corruption in the security forces. GAM apparently continues to get the majority of its weapons from corrupt sources within the TNI and police. The Indonesian government could make major strides toward demilitarization, not just in Aceh but elsewhere in Indonesia, by stepping up efforts to monitor inventories of weapons and ammunition and stem the leakage from military sources.

The Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security stressed on Monday that the government was undertaking a three-pronged strategy of humanitarian efforts, law enforcement, and improvement of local governance. Aceh would benefit from a focus on these areas. The problem in the past has been that whenever military force has been added to the mix, all other objectives have been swamped.

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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