Indonesian police accused of shoot-on-sight policy

Crackdown on Jakarta street crime results in 27 shootings after first three days
Indonesian police accused of shoot-on-sight policy

Indonesia anti-terror police take part in an exercise in Denpasar, Baliin, on March 8. Police in Jakarta have been accused of adopting a shoot-on-sight policy to combat street crime. (Photo by Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP)

Rights activists in Indonesia have accused Jakarta police of adopting a shoot-on-sight policy, reminiscent to that being waged against drugs by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, to combat street crime.

The accusation follows the July 3 launch of a one-month crackdown against muggers and thieves in the city after a spike in street crimes in recent months.

In the first three days of the campaign, police shot 27 people, two of them fatally, and arrested 387 people.

Police say they are simply adopting tougher measures to protect themselves.

"Our chief has ordered us to act firmly and quickly [to shoot]" if we are threatened during an operation, police spokesman Argo Yuwono said on July 10. "It is not negotiable." 

The high number of shootings has drawn scathing criticism from rights activists.

Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director, called the policy dangerous, "given that Indonesian police already have a reputation for summarily executing criminal suspects.

He also condemned Yuwono's comments, calling them sinister.

"Yuwono's sinister rhetoric is reminiscent of the language used by Philippine police officials running President Rodrigo Duterte's murderous war on drugs," he said in a statement.

He was referring to the Philippine president's anti-narcotics campaign that rights groups claim has claimed the lives of more than 22,000 people.

He said Indonesian President Joko Widodo should "immediately shut down this Duterte model of crime control or risk culpability for a mass killing campaign that threatens Indonesia's still-fragile rule of law."

Azas Tigor Nainggolan, coordinator of the law and human rights division of the Indonesian Bishops' Commission for Justice and Peace, also criticized the campaign, saying police would not have to resort to such tactics if they did their job properly.

"The important thing is for police to be consistent in law enforcement and follow up reports from the public," he told ucanews.com.

He said the spike in crime was because reported cases were not being followed up.

Rivanlee Anandar, from rights advocacy group the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), warned that the police policy would likely result in extrajudicial killings, adding that "shootings should be the last resort."

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"What's needed [in combating street crime] are routine patrols, not resorting to shooting at the first opportunity. Police should not promote a culture of violence," he said.

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