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Indonesia 'in urgent need of anti-terrorism bill'

Rights group, Catholic Church want immediate approval of stalled bill in parliament

Indonesia 'in urgent need of anti-terrorism bill'

A policeman from the anti-terror squad participates in an anti-terror performance during a ceremony to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the Indonesian police corps in Banda Aceh on July 10, 2017. (Photo by Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP)

A Jakarta-based rights group and the Catholic Church have called on legislators to immediately approve a stalled anti-terrorism bill, in the wake of a series of terror attacks in Indonesia.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace described the need to pass the bill as "urgent" following recent "alarming" attacks on police by terrorist networks.

In June, suspected terrorists stabbed two policemen after evening prayers at a mosque in South Jakarta and attacked a checkpoint outside the North Sumatra Police headquarters in Medan.

In May, two suicide bomb blasts hit a bus terminal in East Jakarta.

"The bill is comprehensive enough. It allows police to follow the concept of preventive justice, meaning they can conduct early investigations to prevent attacks from happening," Naipospos told ucanews.com, July 10.

The bill has been in limbo for nearly two years due to conflicting views on several critical points, including a reasonable period for pre-trial detention by police and the military's involvement in counter-terrorism activities.

The anti-terrorism bill, a revision of the 2003 law on terrorism, was initially drafted by the government following a bomb attack outside a Jakarta department store on Jan. 14, 2016, which killed seven people.

Under the existing Criminal Law Procedures Code, a suspect must be released one day after being arrested unless he or she is formally charged.

In contrast, the proposed terrorism law will give police the power to detain a suspect for questioning for seven days, without charge, which some opponents question as a human rights issue and an abuse of power.

"The current system makes it difficult for police as they cannot do anything until terror attacks happen," Naipospos said.

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Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the bishops' Commission for Justice and Peace, said police should be given executive powers to conduct pre-trial detention, adding that legislators should have no more arguments.

"It is not easy for police to identify terrorist networks in only one week. Pre-trial detention should be no problem as long as police pay serious attention to the rights of suspected terrorists. I do not believe this is human rights violation," he noted. 

Meanwhile, the role of the military in law enforcement has been hotly debated from all sides.

"Involving the military in combating terrorism is a transgression, incorrect and off-target," said Al Araf, director of human rights watchdog Imparsial, in a recent comment piece in the The Jakarta Post.

It would "lead to a much more repressive and excessive way of countering terrorism," he said.

However, Supriyadi Widodo Eddyono, executive director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, has backed a greater role for the military in combating terrorism.

"For some issues, certain regulations are needed," he said while noting their activities must fall under the command of the National Counterterrorism Agency.

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