A case to convince Indonesians: The Bali investigation
A case to convince Indonesians: The Bali investigation
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

A case to convince Indonesians: The Bali investigation

Why has it taken until now for the Indonesian government to see that the killers of almost 200 people in Bali on Oct. 12 will probably prove to be part of the same network that has carried out dozens of other deadly bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines in the past two years?

The network's members tend to be Indonesians who share three characteristics: previous residence in Malaysia, military experience in either Afghanistan or Ambon in eastern Indonesia, and respect for the Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who was detained in October, months after neighboring countries and the United States first urged Indonesia to do so.

Officials in Singapore and Malaysia allege that Bashir is the leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah group that planned to detonate truck bombs against American, British and Australian targets in Singapore with help from Al Qaeda agents, before the plot was discovered and many of those involved arrested and interrogated. Bashir is wanted by Malaysian authorities, also on terrorism-related charges. The Indonesian public remains skeptical of Jemaah Islamiyah's existence and unconvinced of Bashir's ties to Al Qaeda.

So what are the reasons for the Indonesian authorities' delay?

Too many possible villains: Every time a bomb attack occurred in Indonesia between 1999 and 2001, suspicions would fall on the family and friends of former President Suharto, the Indonesian military, or Acehnese separatists.

There were plausible grounds for the first two. Suharto's son Tommy had shown a willingness to use violence to stop corruption, and the military had backed militias in East Timor and Laskar Jihad in Maluku and then denied any responsibility for their actions. The Indonesian police and military often fell back on blaming Acehnese separatists whenever individuals from Aceh province were involved in crimes, without probing other possible affiliations.

Too much noise in the system: In Indonesia's news weeklies, it is striking how articles on earlier bombings are buried amid news of power shifts in Jakarta, presidential impeachments, battles with the International Monetary Fund, outbreaks of communal violence and corruption scandals. Not only was public attention pulled away from the bombings, but presumably investigative resources were as well.

No faith in the police or courts: Law enforcement institutions were so corrupted and politicized under Suharto that many Indonesians are skeptical about the legitimacy of arrests announced by police, the validity of evidence produced in court and the independence of judges hearing high-profile cases. One reason Indonesia is such fertile ground for conspiracy theories is that credibility in government institutions is so low: If you can't believe the official version of events, you construct a logical alternative.

Fear of a Muslim backlash: Indonesia has more Muslims than any other country. The Indonesian government has had to tread extremely cautiously as the network of bombers involves radical Muslims, some of whom have justified their actions in terms of defending Islam against its enemies. Muslims across the political spectrum in Indonesia remain deeply concerned that the war on terror is leading to the targeting of fellow Muslims, and that the new anti-terror legislation will be largely directed against them.

Muslim leaders have expressed fears that with Bashir detained and the Bali investigation focusing on a religious school in East Java Province, the whole religious school system in Indonesia will come under suspicion. President Megawati Sukarnoputri, facing an election in 2004, has no wish to alienate the Muslim community. She represents the country's tradition of secular nationalism but depends on the support of several Islamic parties in Parliament.

The best antidote to all such concerns is evidence. A credible investigation of the Bali bombings is already doing much to undermine the conspiracy theories that were so prevalent in the first weeks after the attack. It will be trickier to pull together all the threads linking the various bombings in a way that ensures not only justice, but public acceptance of the results.

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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