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Activists blast Widodo's shoot drug traffickers comment

Rights group accuse president of encouraging police to commit acts of 'thuggery'

Activists blast Widodo's shoot drug traffickers comment

Indonesian policemen stand guard after the arrest of five Taiwanese crew members (bottom) from a boat named the "Wanderlust," which allegedly transported a ton of crystal meth, in Batam on July 16. The arrest happened after a Taiwanese man caught with a tonne of crystal meth was shot dead on July 12 by Indonesian police after trying to escape, authorities said. (Photo by Sei Ratifa/AFP)

Katharina R. Lestari & Konradus Epa, Jakarta
Indonesia

July 25, 2017

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Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has come under fire from rights groups for comments in which he reportedly called for foreign drug traffickers entering the country to be killed.

In a speech on July 21, Widodo told law enforcement officers "to be firm especially to foreign drug traffickers entering the country and resisting arrest" and "to shoot them and give them no mercy."

He said drug trafficking was now a national emergency.

The comments followed the shooting of a Taiwanese national at a port in Banten province on July 13.

The man was killed as police attempted to arrest four Taiwanese men allegedly trying to smuggle a ton of crystal methamphetamine into the country.

"The government's firm stance [against drugs] deserves appreciation. Still, it does not mean that it can violate human rights," Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the bishops' Commission for Justice and Peace, told ucanews.com on July 24.

He said Widodo's comments would pave the way for law enforcement officers to commit thuggery.

"It seems President Widodo is following [Philippine] President Rodrigo Duterte's path, which is thuggish. Then what is the difference between the two?"

He also questioned the result of Duterte's war on drugs. "Is it true that it is successful and that the Philippines is now free of drugs? We do not know exactly."

Duterte's drugs war in the Philippines has killed at least 8,000 people.

Alan Christian Singkali, secretary-general of the Indonesian Christian Students Movement, called Widodo's comment senseless.

"How can a law enforcement officer shoot a drug trafficker if he does not know for sure whether or not the person is really a drug trafficker?" he said.

Liona Nanang Supriatna from the law desk at the Catholic Graduates and Intellectuals in Indonesia said the comments go completely against legal principles.

"What happened to the presumption of innocence?" he said.

"Drug trafficking needs to be dealt with seriously. However, such an unfair approach will only produce more unfairness," he added.

Phelim Kine, deputy director of the Asia Division at Human Rights Watch, also condemned Widodo's comments.

"President Widodo should send a clear and public message to police that efforts to address the complex problems of drugs and criminality require the security forces to respect everyone's basic rights, not demolish them," he said.

According to Indonesia's Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence 32 suspected drug traffickers have been shot dead by the authorities since January last year.

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