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Indonesia Should Reject Abusive Philippine-style ‘Drug War’

Police Anti-Drug Czar Lauds Duterte’s Bloody Policy

Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency (BNN) head Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso yesterday called for police to emulate the Philippines’ “war on drugs” declared by President Roderigo Duterte. Waseso told reporters that "If such a policy [as that of the Philippines] were implemented in Indonesia, we believe that the number of drug traffickers and users in our beloved country would drop drastically." 

The head of the Indonesia's National Narcotics Board Budi Waseso (L) looks at a crocodile during a visit to a crocodile farm in Medan, North Sumatra, on November 11, 2015. © 2015 Antara Foto/Reuters

Bad idea.

More than 2,000 people have been killed in Duterte’s “drug war” in the past two months alone. The most recent Philippine National Police data shows that from July 1, when Duterte took office, to September 4, police killed an estimated 1,011 suspected "drug pushers and users." That’s more than 10 times higher than the 68 such police killings recorded between January 1 and June 15. Police blame the killings on suspects who "resisted arrest and shot at police officers," but refuse to launch an impartial investigation into the deaths.

But Philippine police aren't the only ones targeting criminal suspects with deadly force. Police statistics attribute another 1,067 killings of alleged drug dealers and users in the past two months to unknown gunmen. This suggests Duterte's call for violent solutions to crime has found a receptive, and well-armed, audience. Victims include 5-year-old Danica May, a kindergarten student who died from a gunshot wound to the head after an unidentified gunman opened fire on her grandfather, an alleged drug user, as well as Althea Barbon, 4, whom police called “collateral damage” after fatally shooting her in an operation that also killed her father.

Duterte has sought to justify these killings by questioning the humanity of drug users. Waseso likewise expressed potentially dangerous contempt for suspected drug dealers by stating that their lives were “meaningless.” BNN spokesman Slamet Pribadi later tried to walk back Waseso’s assertions by stating that Indonesian law forbids a Philippines-style police offensive against drugs because “[w]e can’t shoot criminals just like that, we have to follow the rules.”

Waseso should publicly decry the Philippines’ “war on drugs” for what it truly is: a brutal, unlawful assault on the rule of law and universal human rights protections that has targeted some of the country’s poorest, most marginalized citizens. When Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo meets with Duterte in Jakarta later this week, Jokowi should reject Duterte’s appalling “solution” to the complex problems of drugs and criminality and emphasize the obligation of police and other security forces to respect everyone’s basic human rights.

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