A rally against global militant network the Islamic State is held in front of the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on Monday. The demonstrators reject the repatriation of Indonesian citizens who have left abroad to join the IS. (Antara Photo/Wahyu Putro)
Indonesia Refuses to Repatriate Former Islamic State Fighters
FEBRUARY 12, 2020
Bogor. The Indonesian government said on Tuesday they will not facilitate the return of nearly 700 militants who have joined the Islamic State in other countries, despite warning from human rights activists.
The decision was made in a meeting led by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, to ensure security and contain the spread of radicalism “virus” among the Indonesian people, the chief security minister said.
“The meeting just now decided that the government and the state must protect 267 million Indonesian people from terrorist threats and new viruses of terror,” Political, Legal and Security Affairs Coordinating Minister Mahfud M.D. told reporters after a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java.
“If we allow the FTFs [foreign terrorist fighters] to return, they may become new viruses that cause other people to feel unsafe. The government has no plan to repatriate terrorists,” he said.
Mahfud said the government will work to collect accurate data about the number of Indonesian citizens who have joined with the global militant network, which seeks to establish a global caliphate through jihad.
"According to our data, there are 689 [Indonesian] terrorists in Syria, Turkey and some other countries. However, we will work for more accurate data about the number and identities of Indonesian people joining the ISIS,” Mahfud said, using another acronym for the group.
The decision was taken sooner than the original plan. Mahfud said earlier the president was waiting for legal frameworks being drafted by related ministries and state agencies before he could make a decision on the matter in a cabinet meeting scheduled for June.
Indonesia's biggest Muslim group Nahdlatul Ulama has voiced firm rejection to the return of former IS fighters.
"We the Nahdlatul Ulama reject the return of ISIS combatants because they have left of their own free will and burned their passports,” Nahdlatul Ulama chairman Said Aqil Siroj told reporters at his office in Jakarta.
He was accompanied by visiting Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.
Said Aqil added the Indonesian militants had deliberately dropped their citizenship when joining the IS, meaning that the government no longer held any responsibility for them.
However, human rights group Imparsial warned that the former IS members still hold Indonesian citizenship. Imparsial director Al Araf argued that although the militants had pledged allegiance to the IS, they remain Indonesian citizens because the group is not a country by any standard.
An Indonesian citizen can only lose his citizenship if he chooses to become a citizen of a foreign country, he said.
He said that a United Nations Security Council resolution defined the so-called Islamic State as a terrorist organization, not a sovereign country.
“We consider that IS sympathizers from Indonesia still hold their citizenship according to the law and the government should accordingly take appropriate policies in handling this issue,” Al Araf said.
As Indonesian citizens, they legally have the right to return to their homeland according to the constitution, he said.