Jakarta approves tough ‘terror’ law

The Indonesian parliament has unanimously approved a contentious”anti-terror” law that grants the military direct involvement in so-called counter-terror operations and security decisions.

After several suicide bombings blamed on followers of Islamic State, the legislation says tackling “terrorism” is a military responsibility, but that it can only become involved in an operation after a request from the police and presidential approval.

The new law gives the police the power to detain “terror suspects” for up to 21 days without charge, and for another 200 days if the authorities say they need more time to investigate. 

Those convicted of smuggling explosives or other chemicals and weapons for “terrorism” face the death penalty. 

Indonesia is set to host the Asian Games in three months and an IMF-World Bank gathering in Bali in October and will be keen to demonstrate a no-nonsense approach to perceived security threats. 

Amnesty International’s Indonesian executive Usman Hamid said: “The newly passed law contains a number of draconian articles that threaten to undermine human rights in Indonesia. The law erodes safeguards against arbitrary detention and against torture and other ill-treatment, as well as expanding the scope of the application of the death penalty. Plans to deploy the military in counter-terrorism operations are also deeply concerning.

“The vagueness of some of the law’s wording could be used by the authorities to restrict freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly or misused to label peaceful political activities as terrorism. This lack of clarity violates the requirement under international human rights law that criminal law must be formulated with enough precision for people to understand what conduct is prohibited.

“The authorities must ensure that detainees are not restricted in their access to lawyers and that regular contact with family members or a relevant third party is guaranteed.”

A series of attacks against police officers and Christians in West Java, East Java and Riau, that killed at least 39 people and injured around 50 others this month spurred the government into legislative action. 

Last week, more than 20 people died in suicide attacks on churches and a police station by two families, including a nine and 12-year-old girl, in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya in East Java. 

The families reportedly had ties to a Javan organisation that pledged allegiance to Isis, which claimed responsibility.

Jakarta says almost 1,000 young men travelled to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq since 2014, with more than 500 estimated to have returned to the sprawling archipelago. 



The aftermath of the Jakarta January 2016 attacks. Picture credit: Wikimedia