New antiterrorism agency feared may be draconian

New agency feared may be draconian

, 2 August 2010


Human rights activists and a lawmaker have voiced concerns over the new antiterrorism agency, saying the agency may hold too much power that could mimic the way the authoritarian New Order regime quashed citizens it found too critical of government.

Criticism has emerged over the unclear definition of terrorist activities and greater participation of the military in the antiterrorism movement as stipulated in the presidential regulation on the establishment of the National Antiterror Agency (BNPT), which critics said might be used as an excuse to wrongfully intimidate innocent citizens.

NGO Imparsial and the National Commission on Human Rights recommended the government and House of Representatives improve the regulation to prevent the agency from becoming a superpower body.

“It’s no doubt, terrorism and the actors have become a serious threat to our nation. But, we must question whether it is that important for us to form a new antiterrorism agency to tackle this problem. Aren’t the existing institutions providing enough services?” said Ifdhal Kasim, chairman of the commission, said recently.

He said one of the reasons for concern was the decree granted access to the non-law enforcing institutions to participate in the terrorist man-hunt.

“The decision to involve the military leaves many questions because the military is unauthorized to enforce the laws,” he said. The decree also failed to draw lines on how far the military could get involved in the antiterrorism operations, Ifdhal
went on.

Ifdhal warned the government learn from the past, when the Soeharto administration had similar organizations, which often apprehended citizens who criticized the government.

During the 32-year Soeharto administration, the government had organizations such as the Coordinating Agency for National Stability, the special research agency and the Security and Order Restoration Command, led by military generals.

The government said the organizations were to safeguard the country’s political stability but many believed these agencies were organized to provide extra-judicial services to the government.

Al Araf, program director of Imparsial, an NGO concerned with human rights violations, said there were some articles in the regulation that needed to be scrutinized. He highlighted the absence of a clear definition of what constituted “radical groups”.

Effendy Choirie, lawmaker of the House’s Commission I overseeing intelligence, foreign affairs and defense, said he deemed the BNPT as a bit excessive.

“At the beginning, we were only expecting the government to form a joint secretariat, tasked to coordinate, cooperate and use the resources at the existing institutions in this terrorist pursue and not a new agency like this,” he said.

Contentious articles and the NGOS’ notes

Article 3C: Coordinating prevention programs and taking measures against radical ideology propaganda in combating terrorism.
Note: The government should be clear on what individuals or groups constitute radical or what constitutes BNPT abuse of power.

Article 13D: Taking measures against radical ideology propaganda.
Note: It is feared the failure to properly address this issue could cause the BNPT to label every critical mind as radical.

Article 15: Deputy on measurement and capability maintenance is tasked to formulate, coordinate and implement policies, strategy and a national program on combating terrorism.
Note: Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs minister said BNPT would only be tasked to formulate policies regarding terrorism but not take measures against them.

Article 23 (3): The deployment of police and the military is in line with the higher order.
Note: The involvement of the military opens a human rights violation possibility