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Investigation into possible extrajudicial killings held up by lack of data from police: Ombudman
Coconuts Jakarta - August 1, 2018
In mid-July, they released the results of the first nine days of the operation, from July 3-12. It showed that officers had arrested 320 criminals, 52 of which were shot for allegedly attempting to resist in some way and 11 of whom were killed.
It seemed like the police were proud of the accomplishment, but rather than receiving praise they got heavy criticism from numerous parties over the shockingly high number of shootings. Officers taking part in the operation had been instructed to "act decisively" aka not hesitate to shoot suspects if they attempted to resist, which activists denounced as a violation of basic human rights opening the door to extrajudicial killings by the police.
Concerns over the large number of shootings fortunately led to more than just criticism but also action on the part of the National Government's Ombudsman office, which opened an investigation into the Jakarta Police's operation.
Today, a member of the Ombudsman team tasked with the investigation, Adrianus Eliasta Meliala, said he was disappointed with the Jakarta Police for not providing his office with any of their data from the operation, including the number of suspects shot, arrested and killed July 3 until today.
"We are disappointed, we asked for the data in written form, but it has not been given," Adrianus told Tempo today.
The Ombudsman official said he had a meeting with senior police officers on Friday to discuss the shootings and hear the police's explanation for their high numbers. He also asked for the data on the rest of the operation but until now has not received anything.
Adrianus said that his investigation was focused on trying to determine whether the shootings were done extra-judicially or not. Therefore he needed the police's data to check on things such as if acting officers had warrants and whether testimony about the shootings matched forensic data from the victims.
According to the Ombudsman official, the police gave him various excuses for not releasing their data to him, including data on injured suspect still needing to be gathered from various hospitals as well as general business ahead of the Asian Games.
Although the number is not official, the head of forensic medicine at Kramat Jati Police Hospital, Commissioner Edi Purnomo, said 15 suspects had been killed over the course of three weeks of the operation. Police stopped releasing official data on the operation after the second week following the criticism.
The anti-street crime operation involves around 1,000 officers divided into 16 teams tasked with monitoring certain areas of the capital prone to crime including bus terminals, train stations, shopping centers and highways.
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) criticized the police operation and warned that it was reminiscent of law enforcement under Suharto's New Order dictatorship.
"Playing around with shooting thieves, what's the difference between them (the police) and what happened during the Petrus incidents," said National Commissioner of Human Rights, Sandrayati Moniaga on July 12 as quoted by Tempo
(Petrus referring to "penembakan misterius" or the mysterious shootings that took place from 1983-1985 involving thousands of suspected criminals who were mysteriously shot to death by undercover snipers and had their bodies placed in public places as a crime deterrent. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's allegedly said that his his bloody war on drugs was directly inspired by the Petrus killings.)
The director of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, Alghifarri Aqsa, has urged victims of police shootings and their families to report unlawful actions and called on the police to reevaluate the policy, saying that it was not about protecting thieves but protecting the principle that suspects must be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.