What is the state of Indonesia's fight against terror?
What is the state of Indonesia's fight against terror?
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

What is the state of Indonesia's fight against terror?

The arrest on Monday of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, Indonesia's best-known radical cleric, shows the commitment of Indonesian police to fighting terrorism. Their efforts on this front stand in sharp contrast to their lack of interest in fighting corruption, ultimately the greater threat to Indonesian democracy.

In general, terrorists have no significant support in Indonesia, and every attack has generated widespread outrage. Ba'asyir is in a slightly different category.

While his support has declined over the past several years, he is a celebrity figure on the extremist lecture circuit and he has become a symbol for many Islamic groups of defiance of the West, in part because of the pressure exerted to have him arrested after the 2002 Bali bombings in which more than 200 people died.

At the time, he was head of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the group responsible for the attack, although it was never conclusively proven that he ordered or even endorsed it. He was arrested and tried twice, for different crimes linked to Bali, but prosecutors could never make the most serious charges stick.

This third arrest will have little impact on the overall security situation in Indonesia. Extremist groups have been steadily evolving in new and complex ways: JI no longer supports attacks in Indonesia, and Ba'asyir's relations with its leaders are strained. He is no longer the most important figure in the Indonesian jihadi movement nor even its most influential ideologue.

But Ba'asyir's arrest does point to one very big issue for the Indonesian government -- how will it handle this man's detention?

One of Indonesia's great achievements has been to ensure that terrorism remains a law enforcement issue to be handled by the police, not the military. The government decided early on that it would not engage in widespread preventive detention or closed trials; the media coverage of more than 250 trials to date has been a major factor in convincing the Indonesian public that its terrorists are homegrown.

But a close to 100 percent conviction rate among the hundreds arrested has produced a new problem -- radical prisoners and ex-prisoners. Taking advantage of a notoriously lax corrections system, extremists frequently have taken over prison preaching, maintained contact with friends outside, recruited ordinary criminals and even planned operations. A police program to offer economic incentives to prisoners in exchange for cooperation has had limited success, but the hardcore jihadis generally do not take part.

The friendship that grew up between Ba'asyir and a young man named Ubeid, while both were detained in Jakarta's laughably-designated "maximum security" prison, led to Ubeid's joining the organization Ba'asyir founded in 2008 -- Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT).

Ubeid helped build an alliance of Indonesian jihadi groups that planned to wage jihad to establish an Islamic state. The training camp they set up in the jungles of Aceh, on the island of Sumatra, was broken up by police in February 2010.

Ba'asyir is now accused of funding the camp and agreeing to become head of the alliance -- which was called "Al-Qaeda in Aceh" -- and in which some 17 ex-prisoners were involved.

Police and other government officials need to ensure that Ba'asyir does not use his detention again to enhance his stature or recruit new followers. He must not be given access to the press or allowed to preach. The police must ensure that he has no access to recording equipment for lectures that can be then broadcast over the internet, and visits with his friends and family should be monitored to ensure that he is not allowed to dictate messages to his followers.

Terrorism in Indonesia is not easily eradicated, but there is no indication that violent extremism is growing. The widespread fears that Indonesia could become the "second front" after South Asia have not materialized, in part because the local drivers for jihad have largely disappeared.

Terrorism usually emerges in response to war or occupation by a foreign power, repression by an autocratic government, alienation of a Muslim minority or hostile neighbors bent on making trouble. None of the above apply in Indonesia, and the communal conflicts between Christians and Muslims that produced thousands of recruits in 1999-2001 have long been settled.

Even when a splinter group of JI made a major bomb attack an almost annual event -- the Marriott Hotel in 2003, the Australian embassy in 2004, the second Bali bombs in 2005, an aborted attack on a tourist cafe in West Sumatra in 2007 and two luxury hotels in Jakarta in 2009 -- Indonesian stability was never at stake.

The Indonesian police unit responsible for counter-terrorism has won well-deserved praise, but it operates within a larger police force that is probably the most reviled institution in the country --for failing to treat endemic corruption in its own ranks.

After a local news magazine recently wrote a story about "fat bank accounts" of senior officers, the magazine's office was firebombed and a researcher investigating the accounts was badly injured in a machete attack. The effort to combat terrorism will only work when members of the public trust the police enough to report suspicious activities.

As long as senior officers enrich themselves at public expense and use thugs to stop investigations, it is not just counter-terrorism -- but the rule of law -- that will suffer.

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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