Activists, Experts Urge Lesser Role for Military in Fighting Terror Amid New Legislation


JUNE 11, 2017

Jakarta. Activists and experts have urged the government to immediately draw up a separate bill on military assistance instead of pressing ahead with the current revision to the existing antiterror law, which would grant a greater role for the military in countering terrorism.

Revisions to the bill have sparked concerns since late last year over the fate of the country's criminal justice system, but protests have mounted after the government strengthened the revision earlier this month after a terror attack in East Jakarta, which killed three police officers.

A greater role for the Indonesian Military (TNI) means soldiers can be involved in countering terrorism not as a form of assistance to police officers, but rather as conducting separate operations without police guidance or oversight.

That also means soldiers can be involved in countering terrorism without a state decree, thus the counterterrorism role of the military will no longer be considered provisional.

This is opposed to a 2004 law stipulating the powers of TNI, which grants the military a role in counterterrorism operations based on a joint decree signed by lawmakers and the government.

Human rights activists and security experts said this should immediately be regulated further, citing the issuance of a law on military assistance as "more ideal and important" than seeking a greater role for the military by revising the 2003 antiterrorism law.

"It is to elaborate on how far and under what conditions the military can assist the police in dealing with security threats, including terrorism," said a joint statement issued on Friday (09/06) by a group of more than 100 activists and experts.

Soldiers have occasionally assisted police in countering terrorism, the most notable of which is an ongoing joint operation against a terror group based in the jungles of Central Sulawesi's Poso. TNI's role in that operation was based on a presidential instruction.

"The military assistance should not be partially and improperly regulated in the revisions to the antiterrorism law," Friday's statement said. Activists and experts, however, are not fully opposed to the bill.

Renewed calls for the immediate passing of the antiterrorism bill followed last month's Islamic State-linked suicide bomb attack at the Kampung Melayu bus station in East Jakarta.

That attack was the biggest since January last year, when four people were killed in an Islamic State-linked bomb and gun attack in Central Jakarta that prompted the government to move to revise the existing antiterrorism law.