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A parade marks the arrival of the Asian Games torch from India ahead of the 18th Asian Games, in Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia on July 17, 2018.  © 2018 Antara Foto/Ismar Patrizki via Reuters
(Jakarta) – Indonesia’s government should promptly and impartially investigate a surge of killings of criminal suspects by the Jakarta police, Human Rights Watch said today. Jakarta police data indicates that police killed 11 suspects and wounded 41 others from July 3 to July 12, 2018, for “resisting arrest” as part of an anti-crime campaign linked to the city’s preparations to host the 2018 Asian Games next month. That campaign involves the deployment of 1,000 police personnel across Jakarta until the games’ conclusion on September 3.

“The fatal shooting of 11 criminal suspects in just 10 days suggests that Jakarta police have interpreted ‘firm actions’ against crime as a license to kill,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “The upsurge in killings soon before the start of the Asian Games points to a possible policy that needs an urgent and impartial investigation.”

The shootings follow a directive from Jakarta Police Inspector General Idham Azis on July 3 for police personnel “to take firm actions” against suspects who pose a public threat. That same day, the Jakarta Police spokesman, Sr. Comr. Prabowo Argo Yuwono, announced that, “If there is resistance [from the muggers and thieves], our chief has ordered us to act firmly and quickly [to shoot]. It is not negotiable.”

The Asian Games are overseen by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), the governing body of sports in Asia that includes 45 National Olympic Committees (NOC) across the region. The OCA’s president is Sheikh Al-Fahad Al-Sabah. The OCA’s Constitution and Rules commit the body to apply and uphold “Olympic principles as defined in the Olympic Charter.” The International Olympic Committee charter enshrines human dignity as a value the Olympic movement should uphold across all sporting federations.

“The Asian Games are intended to celebrate human achievement, not provide a pretext for a police ‘shoot to kill’ policy in the name of crime control,” Kine said.

The Jakarta police have not provided comparative data for killings of criminal suspects by police and the Indonesian National Police does not maintain public databases of such statistics. However, Indonesian police have long been linked to summary killings of criminal suspects. A University of Melbourne analysis estimated that more than one-third of the killings of illegal drug suspects by Indonesian police from January to June 2017 occurred after suspects had surrendered to police. And Azis in August 2017 announced that when dealing with suspected drug dealers, “sending them to God” would take priority over arrest and prosecution.

Other Indonesian officials have made similar calls in the name of combating crime. Over the past two years, numerous officials have repeatedly encouraged the killing of criminal suspects as a legitimate police response to crime. Several have publicly praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous “war on drugs” as a model for crime control despite extensive evidence of police involvement in an unlawful killing campaign that has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people.

Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency head, Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso, in September 2016 called for Indonesian police to adopt Duterte-style “drug war” methods. Waseso sought to justify such illegal law enforcement tactics by stating that “the life of a [drug] dealer is meaningless.” He reiterated that stance in July 2017 with praise for Duterte’s anti-crime campaign, saying that it “shows he is taking care of his citizens.” That week, the National Police chief, Gen. Tito Karnavian, made an explicit reference to Duterte’s campaign when unveiling a new approach to combating drugs in Indonesia: “shooting drug dealers.” In February 2018, Karnavian awarded former Philippine National Police Director-General Ronald dela Rosa its highest honor, the Medal of Honor. Karnavian praised dela Rosa, who is implicated in possible crimes against humanity, for his role in “drug war” extrajudicial killings, for his “rock star-like inspiration to the Indonesian national police” on how to combat illegal drugs.

Under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Personnel, police may only use firearms to protect human life from imminent threat of death or serious injury. Intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made “when strictly unavoidable to protect life.” The principles also provide that governments and law enforcement agencies should establish effective reporting and review procedures in cases of death or serious injury, and that prosecutorial authorities are able exercise jurisdiction as appropriate. The government needs to ensure that superior officers are held responsible if they know, or should have known, that law enforcement personnel under their command have resorted to the unlawful use of force and firearms and did not take all measures in their power to prevent, suppress, or report such use.

“Senior Indonesian government and police officials have communicated to police officers that the killing of criminal suspects will reap praise rather than punishment,” Kine said. “That messaging raises the risk of more killings by police as part of the Asian Games anti-crime campaign unless the authorities walk back that murderous rhetoric and provide accountability for those deaths.”

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