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Indonesia

In lead up to Asia Games, Indonesian police kill dozens

Death toll hits 77 as state forces authorized to shoot suspects on sight but critics warn of rights abuses

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In lead up to Asia Games, Indonesian police kill dozens

Indonesian police conduct a security drill in Jakarta in this July 31, file photo ahead of the 2018 Asian Games. Jakarta and Palembang are hosting about 11,000 athletes and 5,000 officials from 45 Asian countries for the Asian Games from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2. (Photo by Ran Raphael/AFP)

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At least 77 people have been shot dead by police in Indonesia within the last two months amid heightened security to safeguard the 18th Asian Games, according to Jakarta-based Amnesty International Indonesia.

Of that figure, 31 were killed in Jakarta and Palembang in South Sumatra province, two main venues of the Aug. 18 to Sept. 2 continental multi-sport event.

"In the months leading up to the Asian Games, the authorities promised to improve security for all. Instead, we have seen the police shooting and killing dozens of people across the country with almost zero accountability for the deaths," said the rights group's executive director, Usman Hamid.

He said the figure "reveals a clear pattern of unnecessary and excessive use of force by the police and a constant veil of impunity that taints public security institutions."

"The hosting of an international sporting event must not come at the price of abandoning human rights. The killings must stop and all deaths must be promptly and effectively investigated," he said.

The shootings are part of a special police operation launched in July, in which officers are authorized to take firm action including shooting on-sight anyone who resists arrest or attacks them.

"We are demanding the National Human Rights Commission and National Police Commission conduct an investigation into all those shootings," Haeril Halim, the rights group's communication officer told ucanews.com on Aug. 20.

Poengky Indarti at the National Police Commission said her group would seek clarification from the police only if someone, including a family member of one of the victims, files a report.

"We work based on that," she said.

Nico Afinta, general crimes director at the Jakarta police, refused to comment.

Held under the banner "Energy of Asia," the 18th Asian Games features 11,000 athletes from at least 45 countries and regions including both Koreas.  

The quadrennial event has already made history this year as the two countries marched together under the Korean Unification flag at the opening ceremony.

Having thrown their weight behind the Games' message of peace, Catholic priests and laypeople in Jakarta and Palembang Archdioceses have set up facilities to help athletes and officials and arranged translators to offer Mass for Catholic athletes in their native languages.

This is the second time Indonesia has hosted the Asian Games. The last time was in 1962 when Jakarta played host.

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