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Indonesia

Spike in dealer deaths alarms Indonesian rights group

Fears grow that govt is looking to follow Philippine path in dealing with drug problem

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Spike in dealer deaths alarms Indonesian rights group

In this July 2016 file photo a banner is placed outside the presidential palace in Jakarta during a vigil opposing the execution of drug convicts. Rights groups have expressed alarm over a sharp increase in the number of drug suspects being shot dead by police. (Photo by Ryan Dagur)

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The Indonesian government needs to investigate an alarming rise in the number of suspected drug traffickers being shot to avoid accusations of employing "excessive used of force," or trying to imitate the Philippines' deadly drug war, a leading human rights group says.

So far this year, police have shot dead 20 suspects, Amnesty International said, citing national narcotics agency figures.

The latest occurred on April 16, when a suspected dealer was shot in Jakarta. Police claimed the suspect resisted arrest.

Last year 98 people were killed, a sharp rise on the 18 shot dead in 2016.

The government must investigate these shootings, Amnesty Indonesia director, Usman Hamid, said on April 17.

"Police are justified in protecting themselves, but what constitutes self-defense may be being applied too freely," he said.

According to rights activists, drug suspect deaths shot up after President Joko Widodo urged "a more assertive policy" in July 2017, in dealing with drug-related crimes.

In March this year, National Police Chief, Tito Karnavian, told officers to immediately shoot dead suspected drug dealers who tried fighting back.

"I ordered a decisive act, if necessary shoot [them] dead," he said.

According to Alghiffari Aqsa, director of Jakarta Legal Aid, such orders very likely triggered procedural violations.

"If there are orders from superiors, the chances of a violation occurring are enormous," he said.

"Do not imitate the way the Philippines handles drugs as it's a very bad example that has been criticized by many," Aqsa said, referring to the mass killings of drug suspects in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte.

Alghiffari said although society recognizes drugs are a very serious problem, this should not be seen as a green light to kill people. 

"The support of the community should not be misconstrued by justifying actions that are outside the law and breach human rights," he said.

Franciscan Father Peter C. Aman, a lecturer of moral theology at Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta, said the shootings "violated the right of the alleged dealers to change or repent."

"They are also not given the opportunity to defend themselves through legal means," he said.

National Narcotics Agency spokesman, Sulistiandriatmoko, denied drug suspects were being deliberately killed.

"If firearms are used, it is out of concern for the personal safety of police officers at the scene," said the spokesman, who like many Indonesians only uses one name.

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