The head of Indonesia’s police on Thursday unveiled a new policing approach to combating drugs: shooting suspected dealers.
Indonesia’s National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian is looking to the Philippines – where thousands have been killed in a state-sanctioned anti-drug campaign – for the wrong kind of inspiration.
Karnavian stated that, “From practice in the field, we see that when we shoot at drug dealers, they go away.” Karnavian specifically cited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” as the source of his belief that capital punishment was an effective way to combat drug dealers. And with sinister echoes of Duterte’s unlawful instigation of mass killings, Karnavian has already instructed his officers “not to hesitate shooting drug dealers who resist arrest.”
Duterte’s drug war is not about “capital punishment” – a judicially imposed sentence after a criminal trial – but a police-led summary killing campaign that that has killed more than 7,000 Filipinos since Duterte took office on June 30, 2016. Duterte has glorified those deaths as proof of the “success” of anti-drug measures that have disproportionately targeted urban slum dwellers. Human Rights Watch field research found that government claims that the deaths of suspected drug users and dealers were lawful were blatant falsehoods. Interviews with witnesses and victims’ relatives and analysis of police records show a pattern of unlawful police conduct designed to paint a veneer of legality over extrajudicial executions that may amount to crimes against humanity in violation of international law.
Karnavian is not the first senior Indonesian law enforcement official to tout Duterte’s abusive drug war as a model of effective counter-narcotics policing. Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency (BNN) head Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso in September 2016 called for police to emulate the Philippines’ “war on drugs.” 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.”
Both Karnavian and Waseso should denounce the Philippines’ “war on drugs” for what it truly is: a brutal, unlawful assault on the rule of law, human rights, and basic decency that has targeted some of the country’s poorest, most marginalized citizens. And Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo should send a clear and public message to the police that efforts to address the complex problems of drugs and criminality require the security forces to respect everyone’s basic rights, not demolish them.