Munir: Vanguard of reform
Munir: Vanguard of reform
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

Munir: Vanguard of reform

When I think of the people who had the most impact in bringing about a democratic Indonesia, Munir would be up there near the top. He was everything a human rights champion should be: principled, tough, smart, funny, and fearless. He stood up to people in power, he made them angry, he got threat after threat after threat, and he never gave up.

Some accused Munir of blackening Indonesia's image abroad. But he didn't -- he enhanced it. In the dying days of the Soeharto government and the traumatic first years of the transition, a common Western perception of Indonesia was of an authoritarian state, riddled with corruption and plagued by violence, that wasn't going to change.

But Munir personified a new generation, born in 1965, not mired in the mindset of the 1970s. He had a clear vision of what Indonesia should and could become, and no one was going to stop him or anyone else from getting there.

Anyone who met Munir knew reform was possible. Not just possible, that's too weak -- inevitable. There would be rule of law. There would be accountability. There would be justice. Just as he was convinced, when he cofounded the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), that the activists who disappeared would be found alive, and most were, he was also convinced that the ordinary Indonesians deserved and could get a much better government than they had. When you met Munir, any negative stereotypes of Indonesia crumbled -- there was hope for real change.

After the devastating violence in East Timor in 1999, the Indonesian government at the time argued that it could do its own investigation; there was no need for an international commission.

The world was skeptical, until the Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations (KPP-HAM), of which Munir was a key member, produced a thorough, impartial report, far better and more detailed than the UN's own effort -- then all the doubters began to believe.

That the subsequent prosecutions didn't match the quality of that report was no fault of Munir's. Whenever he was involved, Indonesia's image abroad was positive, of a country that had turned a corner and could try dispassionately to right past wrongs.

I could never understand how someone so relentlessly subjected to attacks, verbal and physical, could remain such an optimist. He shrugged off the insinuations, innuendo, and downright lies that were hurled at him. He was an activist in the best sense of the word, doing things when other people just talked.

He got human rights monitoring posts set up in Aceh, he got people on the ground in Maluku as soon as the violence broke out, and he never forgot the families of the disappeared whose agony never ends as long as the fate of their relatives remains unknown.

Some people might have rested on their laurels, or moved into a less stressful job after winning an honor as prestigious as the Right Livelihood Award or being named Man of the Year by Ummat or being cited as a "Young Leader for the Millennium in Asia" by Asia Week magazine.

But Munir continued to argue for military reform and human rights protections with passion, humor, and an absolute conviction that he was right. The bombs in Malang, the attacks in 2002 and 2003 on the Kontras office didn't stop him in the slightest, nor did his serious health problems. I wish we'd all told him to slow down, but he wouldn't have paid attention anyway.

Munir was a very close friend, someone with whom I worked closely over the last six years. I can't imagine a world without him. My heart goes out to his family -- and to Indonesia.

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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