|Subject: U.S.-Trained Anti-Terror Police
Accused of Human Rights Violations
The Jakarta Post
Arrests of Terrorist Suspects Prone to Abuses, Say Activists
Yuli Tri Suwarni and Eva C. Komandjaja,
But the police insisted that the operation would continue, saying they are authorized to arrest and question anyone suspected of involvement in terrorism.
"It's just a matter of the legal procedures. The Antiterrorism Law allows us to detain suspects for seven days for questioning. But if we don't come up with any evidence, we let them go," the National Police's spokesman, Brig. Gen. Soenarko Danu Ardanto, said on Wednesday.
He denied allegations that the antiterror unit, Detachment 88, had violated human rights and legal procedures while making arrests.
"The police are doing their best to uphold the law and the public should trust us," he said.
National Commission on Human Rights chairman Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara urged the police to respect the basic human rights recognized by the Criminal Law Procedures Code, Human Rights Law and the Constitution when arresting, questioning and interrogating people suspected of involvement in acts of terrorism.
"We may be protected from terror but we don't want to come under another threat," Abdul Hakim told reporters after a seminar on the war on terror from the human rights perspective hosted by Padjadjaran University's School of Law.
In its latest report, the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), a human rights watchdog, revealed that over 200 people had been arrested by Detachment 88 since the Oct. 1 Bali blasts, which claimed 23 lives. Only four people have been arrested and charged as suspects, while four other terrorists on the wanted list are now dead, including Malaysian master bomb maker Azahari bin Husin.
ELSAM also revealed the detention of 64 civilians between April and June of this year in six provinces in connection with terrorism, with at least 10 of them arrested by means of what ELSAM described as "abduction". The rights group used this term as those apprehended were allegedly forced to sign their arrest warrants.
"Some families can't even meet their sons or husbands, or even find out where they are after they're arrested," Atnike Nova Sigiro of ELSAM told the seminar.
She added that the Antiterrorism Law (No. 15/2003) could not be used to justify arbitrary arrests or other human rights violations.
More problems awaited those who were released due to lack of evidence as in most cases the community was already convinced they were terrorists.
"We don't want the stigma against communists that prevailed in the past to recur. There are other ways to combat terrorism without inflicting that kind of stigma on people," she said.
She said that Indonesia had in 1998 ratified the UN Anti-Torture Convention, which protects the non-derogable rights of people.
Although the convention does not spell out any punishments for failure to comply with it, Indonesia would lose credibility on the world stage if it turned a blind eye to the violations, Atnike said.
"I suspect the Antiterror Law is being misused to oppress certain groups, ideas, movements and aspirations, such as peasant movements against the gathering of rights over natural resources into the hands of a few," she said.
Jakarta Swat Team Ready for Action
By Robert Go
MEGA MENDUNG (West Java) - The 24 men in body armour looked like cats ready to pounce as their commander counted down from five.
Safety catches went off at 'three' and then all hell broke loose. The front door went down with a bang, flash grenades were thrown to disorient 'opponents' and there were rapid bursts from M4 assault rifles.
The men moved with precision and discipline. After securing the seven-room house in the mountainous region in Bogor, they escorted the 'hostages' to safe areas.
Inspection of 'downed targets' at the end of the 10-minute operation showed hits to the chest and head - they had shot to kill.
Yesterday's event was a simulation by the latest graduating class of Detachment 88, an elite Indonesian police counter-terrorism force being established courtesy of American expertise and money.
Tomorrow, these professionals will officially join the rest of Detachment 88 - 24 men who have completed a Crisis-Reaction-Team (CRT) course, along with 15 others trained to deal with bombs and blast sites and another 30 with specialised skills in dealing with anti-terrorism investigations.
CRT graduates, who would be expected to respond to field emergencies and act much like Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) units in other countries, are, on average, in their mid-twenties.
But the other two units, which depend more on scientific skills and investigative techniques, comprise older, more seasoned officers.
The short-term aim of the programme, sponsored by Washington's Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) initiative, is simple - to provide Indonesian police with the capability of dealing with threats from terrorists.
But Police Brigadier-General Pranowo Dahlan, Detachment 88's commanding officer, said there were more crucial reasons for the existence of his special squad: 'Ultimately, these specially trained men should raise professionalism within our police force, and help spur our reform programmes.'
He described Detachment 88 members as having been 'carefully selected' and the best young officers available within the force.
The US Embassy here said 88 candidates had been 'carefully vetted', their backgrounds thoroughly checked.
Selection criteria go beyond physical fitness, with candidates required to go through a tough series of aptitude and psychological tests.
At some point, ATA graduates might be expected to train other Indonesians in similar skills, and the general wants them to be 'role models not only on the field of battle, but also off it'.
The expectations match the resources devoted to welfare and training of these men.
Washington has so far agreed to give US$12 million (S$20.4 million) towards their training. Mr Gary Laing, an ATA programme manager, said another US$6 million to US$12 million might be made available in 2005.
In addition to funds, the US government is also supplying the elite unit with top-of-the-line weaponry and communications equipment.
Gluck-17 handguns, AR-10 sniper rifles and Remington 870 shotguns join the M4 sub-machine guns to complement 88's arsenal.
Brig-Gen Pranowo said: 'These are weapons that we've not had before. The men realise they are in a very special position by belonging to this elite group.'
By the end of the programme, possibly in 2005, the Indonesian police force aims to have as many as 325 members of the elite unit spread across six locations throughout the country.
Officials said by then, the police would have significantly increased their capability to deal with any terrorist threat arising in the vast archipelago.
Washington has so far agreed to give US$12 million (S$20.6 million) for training the elite unit, Detachment 88. Another US$6 million to US$12 million may be made available in 2005.
In addition to the funds, the US government is supplying the elite unit with top-of-the-line weaponry and communications equipment.
ATA has been active for 10 years and exists in 82 countries. Indonesia first joined it this year. The first wave of training began this year and the first class graduated in July.
Trainers are all Americans, mostly ex-cops or military. Training is similar to that given in the United States to Swat units.
By the end of the programme, possibly in 2005, the Indonesian police aim to have as many as 325 elite force members at six locations across the country.