Indonesia's Plan to Strengthen Anti-Terror Laws Worries Human Rights Advocates
10 September 2009
In the wake of the July 17 terrorist bombings in Jakarta that killed
seven people, the Indonesian government is proposing stronger
anti-terror laws, such as lengthening detention times for suspects.
The plan has set off a debate about balancing the need for security
with the rights of the individual in a democratic society.
|An armored vehicle stands posted outside the re-opened Ritz-Carlton hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, 30 Jul 2009|
Indonesian Security Ministry has asked lawmakers to amend the 2002
anti-terror law, which was enacted after bombings in Bali that killed
The country's counterterrorism chief, Ansyaad
Mbai, says attacks since then, including the July bombings of two
international hotels in Jakarta, prove that stronger measures are
needed to prevent violence.
"We feel, based on our experience
in the last seven years, we feel that we need to enhance our legal
capacity to extend the power of detention and the power of detention
without charge," he said.
The amendments would allow
authorities to detain terrorism suspects for 30 days without filing
criminal charges. Currently, they can be held seven days. And it would
boost from 120 days to two years the time a suspect can be held before
being brought to trial.
Mbai says these proposed changes are
similar to laws in other countries, including neighboring Malaysia and
Singapore. He says Indonesia's less strict laws attract terrorists from
other countries, like Malaysian Noordin Top who is the suspected
mastermind of the recent Jakarta bombings.
"We are surrounded
by countries with very tough laws, while we are very weak, so it is not
surprising while many terrorists from other countries found their
hotbed in Indonesia," he said.
Indonesia is a relatively new
democracy and the proposal to expand police powers reminds some human
rights groups of the country's authoritarian past. They say the changes
excessively limit the rights of the individual and could lead to abuse.
Jim Della-Giacoma with the International Crisis Group challenges the premise that the amendments will make Indonesia safer.
is a partial solution that appeals to people who want a quick fix and
it is not going to solve the problem, it will not prevent the
recruitment of terrorists we have seen. It will not stop the
dissemination of the jihadi message and it will not help police find
Noordin M. Top," he said.
Della-Giacoma argues that broad arrest powers can be counterproductive.
has a great potential for being a very wide net that catches the wrong
people and in fact does not take the targeted approach that is required
to address the problem of these small terrorist networks," he said.
He says arresting innocent people could turn more people against the government.
sides in this debate acknowledge the threat of terrorism, but are
divided over how to prevent it and how to preserve the country's
Indonesia has arrested and convicted scores of people involved in terrorism since 2002. Most remain in prison.