Indonesia’s Sinister Slide Toward Philippine-Style Drug Slayings

Today, Jakarta’s police chief said that when dealing with suspected drug dealers, “sending them to God” would take priority over arrest and prosecution. Inspector General Idham Azis’ not-very-veiled threat to summarily execute drug suspects was compounded by his pledge to “take responsibility for his subordinates’ actions if they shoot alleged drug traffickers during raids.”

Azis is taking his cues from the highest levels of the Indonesian government and police. On July 20, the National Police chief, Gen. Tito Karnavian, made an explicit reference to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous anti-drug campaign when unveiling a new approach to combating drugs in Indonesia: “shooting drug dealers.” The next day, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo issued the equivalent of a “shoot to kill” order by instructing police who encounter foreign drug dealers who resist arrest to “Gun them down. Give no mercy.” The National Narcotics Agency (BNN) head, Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso, joined the chorus last month with praise for Duterte’s “drug war,” saying that it “shows he is taking care of his citizens.” Waseso’s stance comes as no surprise since he began calling for police to emulate the Philippines’ “war on drugs” in September.

What Jokowi and the police officials under his command ignore in their casual instigation of unlawful use of force against criminal suspects is the brutality of Duterte’s drug war.

President Duterte has unleashed a human rights calamity in the Philippines. State security forces and “unidentified gunmen” have killed more than 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers since July 1, 2016, including at least 3,116 killings by police, according to Philippine government data. The vast majority of victims are some of the country’s poorest, most marginalized citizens. That death toll doesn’t include victims Duterte calls “collateral damage” – children shot in the crossfire of anti-drug operations. Efforts to seek accountability for drug-war deaths have gone nowhere. The Duterte administration has subjected prominent critics of the government’s abusive anti-drug campaign to harassment, intimidation, and even arrest and detention.

Jokowi and his police commanders should publicly vilify Duterte’s “war on drugs,” not pitch it as a model of effective crime control. He should make clear his opposition to extrajudicial killings of drug dealers and warn the police that such abuses will reap prosecution, not praise.