Call for review of use of force by police
A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission
INDONESIA: Poso video calls for establishment of independent procedures for reviewing the use of force by police officers
A video depicting ill-treatment and excessive use of force by police officers has recently been released to the public. In the video, several men who were suspected of being terrorists were lying down on the grass with their hands bound while the police officers asked them questions. One of the suspects was shot in his leg while one other identified as Wiwin Kalahe was shot in his back and the back of his head. The Indonesian National Police spokesman has confirmed that the video was taken in 2007 during a counter-terrorism operation in Poso, Central Sulawesi.
While condemning terrorism and any type of violence, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is saddened that the police officers made use of such excessive use of force in conducting the operation. The short conversation between Wiwin Kalahe and a police officer in the video, for instance, reveals that Wiwin was shot by the police after he surrendered.
The AHRC is aware that the Indonesian National Police has promised to bring the police officers involved in the excessive use of force to justice and that 26 police officers are currently under investigation. The Commissioner of the National Police Commission, M. Nasser, has also mentioned in the media that over half of those police officers will be criminally prosecuted. The AHRC welcomes and appreciates the positive response given by the National Police to the allegations of ill-treatment and excessive use of force. However, it wishes to emphasise that this case reflects the need for the National Police to carry out more research into the activities of its officers in order to curtail their arbitrary and excessive use of force rather than simply punishing the perpetrators. The institution should treat the case as a call to evaluate and amend its policy on the use of force, particularly those engaging lethal weapons, by its members.
The AHRC has received and published various reports in the past concerning the allegations on excessive use of force by the police from different units, including the anti-terrorist detachment, Densus 88, and the mobile brigadiers (Brimob). The excessive force had been performed by the police officers towards various groups, including peaceful protesters (see, for instance, Police use excessive force during a peaceful protest in South Sumatera), unarmed civilians posing no imminent threat (see Police shoot an unarmed and spread a false report), criminal suspects attempted to escape (see Police shot arrestee in the head while allegedly trying to escape), as well as individuals alleged to be members of terrorist groups (see Police act disproportionately in war on terror). One commonality in these cases is that there have been no measures taken by the police to investigate the disproportionate use of force. There is no way, as of today, in which the claim by the police that the measures they took were 'proportionate and necessary' can be effectively and impartially challenged. Most of the time, if not always, the allegations on excessive use of force by the police are thus forgotten and the perpetrators remain unpunished.
The AHRC is aware that there are circumstances where use of force and lethal weapons are inevitable and necessary. However, to avoid arbitrariness and minimise the negative impact of it, a reporting and review procedure should be established. As pointed out in the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, these procedures shall be effective and independent. Instead of being examined by the police themselves, cases of death, serious injury or other grave consequences caused by use of force and firearms should be available for competent authorities responsible for administrative review and judicial control.
Given this above, the AHRC is calling upon the Indonesian government to ensure that such independent procedure is available and accessible in the country. The AHRC is urging the National Police to be cooperative and open itself for reform. It is essential that the police also regularly review its internal regulations and procedures concerning use of force to ensure their compliance with human rights principles. In the mean time, in the absence of an independent mechanism to review their actions, the police have to impartially investigate any complaints and allegations concerning disproportionate use of force perpetrated by its members.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
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