Skip to main content

Indonesia Endorses Killing Drug Suspects to Cut Costs

Drug Czar Touts ‘Shoot to Kill’ Over Jail

Head of Indonesia's anti-narcotics agency Budi Waseso gestures during interview in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 28, 2017.  © 2017 Reuters

Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency (BNN) head has an innovative approach to reducing incarceration costs: killing drug suspects so that they never get to prison.

Last week Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso told the media he had instructed his agency’s drug enforcement personnel “not to hesitate to shoot to kill if they have to [because] if drug offenders go to jail they get free meals, which are paid for by the state.”

That was no was no slip of the tongue. In September 2016, Waseso called for Indonesian police to adopt Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte-style “drug war” methods. Using language reminiscent of Duterte, Waseso declared that, “The life of a [drug] dealer is meaningless.” In July he praised Duterte’s drug war – in which nongovernmental organizations and media outlets estimate more than 12,000 people have been killed over the past 15 months – as proof that “he is taking care of his citizens.”

Waseso is not alone in holding such views. On July 20, Indonesia’s National Police chief, Gen. Tito Karnavian, referenced Duterte’s campaign when unveiling a new approach to combating drugs in Indonesia: “shooting drug dealers.” The next day, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo issued the equivalent of a “shoot to kill” order by instructing police who encounter foreign drug dealers who resist arrest to “Gun them down. Give no mercy.” And on August 9, Jakarta Police Inspector General Idham Azis announced that when dealing with suspected drug dealers, “sending them to God” would take priority over arrest and prosecution.

There are already indications that these statements are having a deadly impact. A recent University of Melbourne analysis estimated that Indonesian police killed 49 suspected drug dealers in the first six months of 2017. That is a sharp rise from 14 such killings in all of 2016 and 10 in 2015. Ominously, more than one-third of the killings by police from January to June 2017 occurred after suspects had surrendered to police.

President Jokowi should publicly declare the primacy of rule of law and the rights of due process for all criminal suspects – and remove officials who believe otherwise. As long as senior police officials such as Waseso are allowed to advocate extrajudicial executions as an acceptable crime control solution, there is a serious risk that police will interpret those exhortations as a license to kill. 

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country

Most Viewed