Indonesian police have killed dozens of drug suspects this year, Amnesty says

Report reveals a shocking escalation in the use of deadly force by authorities against suspected drug dealers

Madeleine Keck
August 16, 2017
Indonesian police have killed dozens of drug suspects this year, Amnesty says
Indonesian anti-narcotic police officers escort a suspected drug smuggler during a raid in Anyer, Banten province, Indonesia, 13 July 2017. Photo: EPA/Str

Since the beginning of the year, Indonesian police have killed  60 suspected drug dealers, compared to just 18 in all of 2016, according to an Amnesty International report released just hours after the Philippines witnessed perhaps the bloodiest day yet in its own war on drugs.

“This shocking escalation in unlawful killings by the police sounds serious alarm bells,” Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said in the statement.

“While Indonesian authorities have a duty to respond to increasing rates of drug use in the country, shooting people on sight is never a solution. Not only is it unlawful, it will also do nothing to address the root causes that lead to drug use in the first place,” he added.

According to the human rights group, many of the killings have occurred around the capital Jakarta and Sumatra, a known hub for drug trafficking. Six people have been killed already in August.

In the Philippines, police killed 21 people on Tuesday night in a series of raids in Bulacan province, an industrial area north of Manila, in what is being called the deadliest night in President Rodrigo Duterte’s more than year long war on drugs.

“President Duterte should not under any circumstances be considered a role model for Indonesia. Far from making the Philippines safer, his bloody ‘war on drugs’ has led to the deaths of thousands without any form of accountability,” Hamid said.

“The authorities must remember that everyone, including people suspected of drug offences, have a right to life that must be respected at all times.”
The escalation in deaths has come in a year where several prominent Indonesian officials have endorsed stronger methods to tackle drug-related crime, including uninhibited lethal force against suspected traffickers.

Indonesia’s national police chief General Tito Karnavian this month told police officers “not to hesitate shooting drug dealers who resist arrest,” according to Reuters. President Joko Widodo also seemed to evoke Duterte during a recent speech in Jakarta when he said of foreign drug dealers: “Enough, just shoot them. Be merciless.”

General Karnavian has explicitly hailed the Philippines’ war on drugs as an example of how to make drug dealers “go away”.

The Philippine National Police say that from July 2016 and June 2017, 86,030 drug suspects have been arrested and 3,264 have been killed. Human rights group say the death toll has been far higher, placing the figure at more than 8,000.

Under both Indonesian and international law, police are only allowed to use force as a last resort, and even then are supposed to refrain from deadly methods unless their lives are under imminent threat.

“Indonesia has a long and troubling history of failing to bring police officers to justice for abuses, which cannot be allowed to continue,” Hamid said. “Authorities must reiterate that the unlawful use of force will not be tolerated and reject any ‘shoot to kill’ policy.”

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