The government is seeking to remodel its strategy for fighting violent jihadism after the terrorist attack on January 14 in Jakarta which left four victims and four attackers dead. However, divisions have emerged over how to best tackle the threat of terrorism and radicalism in the age of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
A notoriously lethargic legislative process is also hampering efforts to revise the 13-year-old Anti-Terrorism Law, a product of a much different terrorism environment.
Part of the counter-terrorism rework includes increasing the powers of the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) and the National Police’s Detachment 88 counter-terrorism squad, but those proposals have been criticized after a terrorism suspect died while in the custody of Detachment 88 earlier in March.
While most high-ranking government officials and independent security experts agree that the current counter-terrorism policies need to be revised to counter newer threats like ISIS, accomplishing such an undertaking amid a myriad of competing interests and opinions inside and outside of the government will be no easy task.
The current Anti-Terrorism Law was rushed into force in the wake of the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. At the time, many government officials and security experts were unaware of the full scope of Indonesia’s terrorism threat.
Many even refused to acknowledge the existence of the group that perpetrated the Bali attack, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). The counter-terrorism measures were first issued as a regulation-in-lieu-of-law by then President Megawati Sukarnoputri under emergency legislative powers and were later ratified as law by the House of Representatives.
The haste in giving law enforcers a legal basis to crack down on Islamist terrorism resulted in loose and broadly-worded legal articles, which some experts have criticized for being inadequate to effectively counter the present militant threat.
Filling the cracks
The January 14 terrorist attack exposed a number of deficiencies in Indonesia’s current counter-terrorism policies. Most pressing is the need for greater monitoring and assessment of terrorist convicts behind bars and those released from jail.
Police said at least one of the perpetrators of the Sarinah attack was previously jailed for terrorism-related offenses.
The attacker, Afif, from Sumedang regency, West Java, was a convicted terrorist who was given a seven-year jail term in 2010 for attending a short-lived militant training camp in Aceh planned and funded by members of JI’s original organizational structure.
It has also been alleged that jailed jihadist cleric Aman Abdurrahman was in contact with one of the perpetrators of the Sarinah attack and the alleged mastermind of the violence – Bahrum Naim, an Indonesian fighting with ISIS in Syria.
Sources told Concord Strategic that Abdurrahman was in contact with both men in the days before the attack, using one of 11 cellular phones found in his cell at the high-security prison island of Nusakambangan in Cilicap, Central Java.
Abdurrahman and another high-profile Nusakambangan resident, jihadist ideologue Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, have reportedly been placed on restricted lockdown following the Sarinah violence, but there is little confidence in Indonesia’s corrupt and poorly-trained prison system that such individuals will be prevented from maintaining contact with their acolytes on the outside.
BNPT chief Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian on May 9 said Abdurrahman would be charged in June for planning the January 14 attack.
Details of the legal overhaul have been kept relatively confidential, but according to a copy of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Law revisions seen by Concord Strategic in March, the draft expands the definition of terrorism and makes it easier to arrest and detain suspected terrorists.
According to the draft, the maximum period allowed for detention without trial will be extended to 90 days and for preventive detention to 120 days, both from a current limit of one week.
After the Sarinah violence, law enforcers complained that their work was being hampered by this aspect of the current Anti-Terrorism Law, arguing that terrorism investigations require much more time, especially to determine if charges should be filed.
The proposed revisions also allow the authorities to target anyone who recruits members for or cooperates with a militant group, and to use electronic communications, intelligence reports and financial transactions as evidence in court against terrorist suspects.
Indonesians who have joined militant training or participated in terrorist acts in a foreign country will be stripped of their citizenship, according to the revisions, and be jailed for up to 10 years if convicted by a court.
The State Intelligence Agency (BIN), which claimed to have detected the January 14 attack ahead of time but lacked the legal authority to act on it, is also seeking arrest powers for its personnel to help fight terrorism.
President Joko Widodo has reportedly turned down that request, saying the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) and the National Police would continue to lead the country’s fight against terrorism.
However, according to the copy of the draft law, BIN is poised to play a greater role in the investigation of terrorism suspects. The draft states that BIN’s role is the “early detection of threats” and the spy agency should be given the authority to wiretap and receive information, including during terrorist incidents.
The draft revision says intelligence reports from BIN can be used as evidence in terrorism trials.
Wider definition of terrorism
Other beefed up measures in the revised law are a broader definition of terrorism and broadly-worded articles which allow for the prosecution of violence and making violent threats.
Hate speech is also covered in the revisions. “Anyone who purposely plans, prepares and/or orders, provokes by spreading hate speech and/or committing conspiracy with other people to commit terrorism as mentioned in Article 6, Article 7, Article 8, Article 9, Article 10, Article 11, and Article 12 can face criminal sentences of the death penalty or lifetime imprisonment.”
The possession of explosives and explosive ingredients and components is also covered in the proposed revisions as well as expanded protections for aviation security. Making a security threat against aviation infrastructure and related personnel is a crime in the draft law.
It is also illegal for anyone to “make contact with anyone, inside and/or outside the country or foreign countries with the intention of ordering, persuading, reaffirming, giving or promising assistance in preparing, facilitating or committing terrorism in Indonesia or other countries.”
Support for overseas terrorist groups like ISIS is covered in the draft law, which criminalizes “anyone who holds military training inside or outside the country or military training with certain radical organizations with the intention to prepare terrorism in Indonesia or other country.” Such offenses can be punished by up to 10 years imprisonment.
According to the draft law, private corporations can be prosecuted if a terrorism-related crime is conducted “by people who have the authority to make decisions, represent, and/or control the corporation based on industrial relations or other relations, act within the corporation, solely or collectively.”
Appeal of softer approach
While law enforcers and security officials mainly view a tougher law against terrorism as a necessity, others feel a greater emphasis on a softer approach would provide more permanent results.
One of the main arguments is that in the long run, strengthening the law will do more harm than good by galvanizing terrorists and extremists who are likely to perceive the legislation as another threat to oppress them by an ‘apostate’ government and its security apparatus.
Activists are warning about the implications for human rights, and global leaders are encouraging Indonesia to focus on its traditions of tolerance to curb violence. “You can’t arrest your way out of terrorism,” British Ambassador to Indonesia Moazzam Malik said in a report in the Financial Times on March 20. “You’ve got to engage with the battle for ideas.”
Rights activists on March 18 called on the House of Representatives to reject the proposals designed to revise the Anti-Terrorism Law. The International Commission of Jurists and other rights groups said in a joint statement that the proposed amendments are “an attack on human rights.”
“The proposed amendments would authorize unnecessarily prolonged detention of suspects, putting them at risk of torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary detention,” the statement said.
Beyond Islamist terrorism
There is also concern over the situation in Papua, where the government is fighting a low-level separatist movement. Coordinating Minister for Politics, Security and Legal Affairs Luhut Panjaitan on February 1 said the revised law will be applicable to violent domestic groups including separatist organizations.
“Do not think that terrorism applies only to Islamic extremists or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Wherever an incident occurs, whether in Papua, Aceh or other regions, if it threatens our national security, we can categorize it as terrorism,” he said at the time.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International previously said countries dealing with terrorism are increasingly using the battle against Islamist extremism as a smokescreen to crack down on minority groups and political dissent, both labels which apply to separatists in Papua and Maluku.
Other rights NGOs raised concerns over a proposal to strip Indonesians of citizenship if they join overseas militant organization, arguing such a move would leave people stateless.
A tougher neighborhood
However, proponents of the beefed-up law say the planned counter-terrorism measures are still not as harsh as those in neighboring countries.
Malaysia in April last year reintroduced a law under which individuals can be detained without trial for up to two years with two-year extensions. Australia last year passed measures banning its citizens from returning from conflict zones in Syria and the Middle East, while making it easier to monitor domestic communications.
Ahmad Dimyati Natakesumah, a lawmaker from the United Development Party (PPP) and a member of Commission I overseeing security and foreign affairs, acknowledged the opposition to some of the proposals for the Anti-Terrorism Law.
“There are a lot of clauses to be revised including the authority related to prevention, investigation and prosecution of terrorist activities. We will have thorough discussions on these aspects,” he told Concord Strategic on March 22.
“The challenges in the revision are to strike a balance between human rights and the need to fight terrorism. The law cannot be too strong as it may lead to abuse of power – I’ve already heard several protests on this – but on the other hand, of course, it cannot be too weak with regard to the security aspect. We don’t want to see terrorists walking freely on our roads,” Natakesumah said.
In addition to a stronger Anti-Terrorism Law, the government apparently feels that more funding and authority for related agencies will assist counter-terrorism programs.
The government in February requested that the House of Representatives support plans to increase the capacity of the National Police’s counter-terrorism squad Detachment 88, including raising the elite unit’s annual budget to Rp1.9 trillion.
During a joint hearing with House Commissions I and III overseeing foreign affairs, security and legal affairs on February 15, Panjaitan said Detachment 88 does not have sufficient weaponry and needs more personnel and its own headquarters.
It was expected that the government would seek a funding increase for Detachment 88 after the Jakarta terrorist attack in January and the figure proposed would nearly double the counter-terrorism unit’s budget.
While any additional funding is welcomed, Detachment 88 will need to restrain any tendency toward a more overbearing approach, given lingering community concerns over possible human rights abuses during counter-terrorism operations.
The death of a suspected terrorist, 34-year-old Siyono, while in the custody of Detachment 88 earlier in March has raised accusations of human rights abuses within the elite unit.
Two Detachment 88 officers were found guilty of negligence in Siyono’s death by a closed police tribunal on May 10. However, the family does not believe the punishment did justice to their actions, as the two officers were only ordered to be transferred to other police units for several years and required to issue an apology.
National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti on May 16 said the police will investigate Siyono’s death in detention a day after a murder report was filed by his family.
Siyono was arrested on March 9 in Klaten regency, Central Java in a case involving a weapons warehouse allegedly belonging to the Neo Jemaah Islamiyah (Neo JI) regional terrorist group in 2014.
According to the police’s version of events, Siyono attacked a Detachment 88 officer while being taken to another alleged weapons warehouse on March 10 in a vehicle, triggering a scuffle that led to his death.
However, sources have told Concord Strategic that the suspect sustained severe blows to the back of his head and wounds to several other parts of his body, suggesting that he suffered a prolonged beating. An autopsy by doctors affiliated with Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim group, also revealed that he died from a severe blow to the chest and suffered other severe injuries.
While the suspicious circumstances surrounding the suspect’s death are not expected to derail the revisions of the Anti-Terrorism Law, lawmaker Natakesumah said that in light of Siyono’s death lawmakers will seek greater legal protections for terrorist suspects.
Another source close to law enforcement in Indonesia said Siyono’s death has the potential to jeopardize foreign assistance for Detachment 88 if the case is not properly investigated and prosecuted by the police’s Internal Affairs Department (Propam).
BNPT gets more cash
The government is also seeking to double the budget of the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT), which is poised to play a greater role in counter-terrorism programs and policies if the revised Anti-Terrorism Law is ratified.
Article 45 of the draft revisions states that the “president entrusts the National Counter-Terrorism Agency to formulate the policy and prevention steps as well as operational steps to implement the Anti-Terrorism Law.”
According to the draft, the BNPT will be granted the authority to compose national policy, strategy and programs in terrorism eradication; coordinate government institutions related to the policy execution of terrorism eradication; conduct policy in terrorism eradication by forming task forces; and conduct terrorism eradication which includes prevention, protection, deradicalization, interception and national awareness preparation.
The increased authority given to the agency in the revised law could be a main reason for the appointment of former Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian as the new BNPT head on March 14.
Karnavian is a seasoned counter-terrorism operator with an impressive record who played a major role in laying the foundations of Indonesia’s current counter-terrorism programs.
He led Detachment 88 through a critical period in the mid-to-late 2000s in which the unit managed to track down a number of senior figures in the terrorism movement.
He is also accustomed to working with foreign agencies and during his time as the head of Detachment 88 there was no whiff of corruption of the significant funds that have been granted to the agency.
While the BNPT has been responsible for the creation of some new counter-terrorism programs, mostly at the local level, the agency regularly comes under fire for not producing more tangible results, something Karnavian may be tasked with changing.
There is little question that several of the proposed changes to the Anti-Terrorism Law have the potential to impact issues outside of the realm of terrorism and could trigger further backlash from civil society and the mainstream Muslim community.
Currently, acts of terrorism are punishable under the existing law, but organizations spreading ideas that provoke terrorism or preach hate continue to be free to do so.
While many countries have laws in place to combat the roots of terrorism, they have implemented them amid great debate over restrictions on freedom of speech and the potential persecution of religious groups.
Any such move in Indonesia could affect a range of organizations, from moderate Muslim groups such as Nahdatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, the largest and second-largest Islamic organizations in the country respectively, to more hard-line and extremist groups such as Dewan Da’wah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII), Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT).
Speeches inciting hatred and intolerance are common and widespread across the archipelago, particularly at university campuses and during Friday prayers at mosques, even those located inside government buildings.
Many mainstream Muslim leaders also do not necessarily see radicalism as a bad thing as long as it does not cross over into violence. Indeed, many even view radicalism, where it is used in defense of the Muslim faith, as positive.
While it will be impossible to completely destroy the ideology that underlies terrorism, it is essential in the near term that support is given to the development of institutions and laws that can prevent terrorist attacks and convicted militants from returning to their old ways.
Terrorist activity remains persistent and convicted terrorists are returning to violent jihad after being released from jail, highlighting a need for more proactive measures and tougher laws balanced with human rights concerns.
However, despite the urgent need to revise the Anti-Terrorism Law, officials involved in the process do not see a speedy conclusion.
“Protests might arise regarding the plan to increase the authority (of counter-terrorism agencies), but such powers must be granted in efforts to combat terrorism,” lawmaker Natakesumah said.
“The problem is there are too many hands, state institutions, involved in the revision and also the implementation of the law. There should be a coordinating regulation.”
Lawmakers said they expect a final version to be ready for ratification by the end of the year.