Showing posts with label Indonesia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indonesia. Show all posts

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Indonesian Cruelty


Indonesian prosecutors in the Scott Rush case have finally gone too far. Their fanatical insistence on sending Scott Rush to his death, is so inhumane, so completely unreasonable and so cruel that I am almost lost for words. 

Barbarism (noun)
-absence of culture and civilisation : the collapse of civilisation and the return to barbarism.
-extreme cruelty or brutality

I have to keep reminding myself that this is Indonesia - the most corrupt, hypocritical, inhumane and sometimes despicable country on this planet. Why would I expect anything else from a country that overlooks home grown terrorists but are willing to murder foreigners for being drug mules. I should accept that Scott Rush and the Bali Nine will receive no justice in Indonesia but like most people with a heartbeat, I find it so damn difficult to stay quiet. The sheer arrogance of the prosecutors and their relentless desire to snuff out Scott’s short life is bordering on barbarism. 

If we held a vote of the Indonesian people, especially Balinese society, and asked is it fair for organised transnational narcotic criminals to be (sentenced to death) we are certain the community will have the opinion that the death penalty is very suitable to be imposed and is just.
--Ida Bagus Argita Chandra: Indonesian Prosecutor

I’m sorry Mr. Chandra but sentencing an Australian to death that would normally invoke a 1-5 year jail term locally, will not attract a lot of tourists. Especially when your country is notorious for luring tourists to buy drugs by the police and then bang them up for a bribe … or face decades in prison or even a possible death sentence. Tourists are nervous enough about possible terrorists attacks let alone being wrongfully arrested for drug offences. I see that some terrorists who commit mass murder are treated better by authorities than naive kids who are coerced into smuggling drugs. How can any rational person compare terrorism/mass murder with being a drug mule?

And then there’s this from another prosecutor:

...drug smuggling was a serious threat to the island’s image as a tourist destination and harsh punishments in drug cases would deter future offences
--Purwanti Murtiasih: Indonesian Prosecutor

Oh, the deterrence myth. If the prosecutors would spend an hour or so doing their research, they would discover that harsh penalties do not deter desperate addicts or petty criminals from the easy money involved in the drug trade. Sentencing people to death for drug offences puts countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia etc. out of line with civilised nations. The treat of being shot by a firing squad simply increases the stakes and the violence associated with the drug trade. It also forces the drug king pins to distance themselves from any punishment by using desperate couriers.

Like most drug policies, it’s the poor, desperate, marginalised and minority groups who end up in prison or facing a death sentence. Rarely do the rich drug lords face the courts or some sort of judicial punishment. The massive profits from the drug trade allow those at the top to distance themselves from most policing with bribes being a key ingredient. When you add in the rampant corruption in Indonesia, the chances of catching these criminals becomes even more remote. Where are the suppliers of the Bali Nine’s heroin haul? Why haven’t we seen the upper management of this drug ring in court? Why are we left with just the pawns who played such a minor role?

The bad smell leftover from the Schapelle Corby fiasco and the exposure by Rob McJannett on the inbuilt judicial corruption raises some concern at the prosecutor’s enthusiasm. What drives them to be so gung-ho in their bid to end Scott’s life? With a delicate Australia-Indonesian relationship and the recent criticism over Australian forces training the controversial Kopassus special unit, you would think Indonesia had more pressing issues to deal with. Putting up flimsy arguments like tourism and minor technicalities about whether a letter had been previously used is bizarre considering it’s someone’s life at stake. 

I feel for Scott’s parents who must be so utterly fed-up with the whole situation. I can only imagine their hate for a bunch of over zealous prosecutors who are pushing for the murder of their son. It certainly gives a new meaning to feeling helpless. What drives some people like the prosecutors to want the death of someone they don’t even know? Where’s the compassion? Where’s the humanity? Not in Indonesia … that’s for sure!


Prosecutors Say Death a Fair Sentence for Bali Nine Member
By Made Arya Kencana
September 2010


Denpasar. Prosecutors said on Monday that Australian Scott Anthony Rush did not deserve leniency after being found guilty of attempting to smuggle 8.2 kilograms of heroin out of Bali in 2005. 

In an appeal hearing, prosecutors dismissed arguments by the Australian Federal Police that Rush played a minor role in the smuggling attempt and did not deserve to be sentenced to death. 

“No matter how small the role of the convict, it supported the success of the syndicate, so the capacity is the same,” said prosecutor Purwanti Murtiasih. 

He added that drug smuggling was a serious threat to the island’s image as a tourist destination and harsh punishments in drug cases would deter future offenses. 

Rush was a member of the so-called Bali Nine caught attempting to smuggle heroin from Bali to Australia in 2005. His was originally sentenced to life in prison, but received the death penalty after appealing to a higher court. 

Mick Keelty, a former Australian Federal Police commissioner, and Mike Phelan, the AFP’s current deputy commissioner, appeared on Rush’s behalf at the Bali court earlier this month. 

Keelty said Rush was not a leader of the plot and did not deserve the death sentence. 

Phelan noted that it was Rush’s first drug offense and he would have faced “less than 10 years” if convicted in Australia, which does not have the death penalty. 

Prosecutors also rejected the argument of Rush’s lawyer that the death penalty had been abolished in many countries. 

Purwanti said that as long as Indonesia still had capital punishment, prosecutors would seek it for major cases. 

“As to the idea that the death sentence should be applied selectively to certain cases, we believe the convict’s violation meets the requirements for the death sentence because he was proven to have smuggled drugs in an organized way that is considered an intercountry crime,” he said. 

The court is scheduled to decide on Oct. 4 whether Rush’s death sentence will be reviewed. 


Related Articles

Sunday, 18 July 2010

It’s A Bit Too Late For A Guilty Conscience

I feel for Scott Rush and his family. I really do. No one should have to go through what they have.

What really irks me though, is the sudden concern of the Australian Federal Police for the fate of Scott especially when it was them who effectively sentenced him to death. Scott’s father, Lee, tipped off the authorities about what Scott was doing in an attempt to save his son from a potential disaster. What the Feds did next is inexcusable - they informed the Indonesian authorities. Instead of stopping Scott from travelling overseas or waiting for the Bali Nine to arrive in Australia and arrest them, they opted to inform the Indonesian authorities knowing very well that they may face the death penalty. I can not even comprehend how guilty and betrayed that Lee Rush must be feeling. Trusting the AFP was the biggest mistake of his life and something that will haunt him forever.

Any rational person knows that Indonesia’s barbaric drug laws are straight out of the dark ages. In addition, it is common knowledge that Indonesian prisons have been condemned by human rights groups as cesspools, not worthy of housing animals let alone people. So why did Mick Phelan, the lead investigator tip off the Indonesian authorities knowing the accused may face the death penalty? Whatever the reason was, Phelan is now the AFP deputy commissioner. 

Even with the aid of hindsight, should the same set of circumstances present themselves again with another syndicate or other people, we would do exactly the same thing
--Mick Phelan (ABC's Australian Story)

Was this really an appropriate comment from a government organisation that is meant to protect Australian citizens? This and similar comments only added to the growing disillusionment with the role of the AFP and the government in protecting Australian citizens overseas. With the Schapelle Corby debacle still making headlines and government inactions involving the hanging of Van Tuong Nguyen in Singapore, many Australians were sceptical of Australia’s commitment to help the Bali Nine. 

So why is Phelan now so keen to help Scott Rush? What has convinced him to fly to Indonesia and testify on his behalf? 

The AFP was pilloried for its behaviour, knowing that Indonesia can apply the death penalty for drug crimes, and considerable pressure has been put on it to do everything it can for Rush

But Phelan is not the only one to suffer a guilty conscience. Several years ago, the then AFP Commissioner, Mick Keelty wrote a letter declaring that Scott Rush was indeed only a courier. This has been followed up by a recent letter dated May 2010 from Keelty, stating that fellow inmate, Martin Stephens was also only a “minor” player in the Bali heroin bust. At least one media report has claimed that Keelty is feeling remorse over his actions with the Bali Nine.

The episode is understood to haunt Mr Keelty, a devout Christian who personally opposes the death penalty and has now retired

It might seem noble to now make amends but their actions did help send these young people to hell and back. 

At the time, there was a treaty between Indonesia and Australia, where both countries could refuse to cooperate in a police investigation if the crime under investigation carries the death penalty. Under section 22(3) of the 1988 Extradition Act, the Australian attorney-general can only extradite a prisoner if assurances have been received that the death penalty will not be imposed or carried out. Defending the treaty breach, an arrogant Keelty made this excuse:

The policy is that we will not give evidence that will, or information that will, directly cause or result in somebody receiving the death penalty. But the reality is in this case, it would appear, on the allegations, that these people have been caught red-handed with heroin in Indonesia
--AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty

Yes, but only after a tip off by the Australian Federal Police. 

Lee and Christine Rush not only did what they thought was best for their son but acted above and beyond the duties of an Australian citizen. This incredible act of rectitude would ultimately ruin their lives because a bureaucratic process was more important than their son’s life. Why was a promise from one of Keelty’s minions, somehow impossible to keep in an organisation that has more wriggle room than a worm farm.

We would never have given any assurance, because there was no lawful reason to prevent him from travelling. My sympathy is with Lee Rush because somebody has misled him. Whoever gave Lee Rush the assurance that his son would be prevented from travelling acted dishonourably. There is no way anyone in the AFP would have provided that assurance because there was simply no power to detain him. He was not wanted on warrants, there were no conditions of his bail that prevented him from travelling overseas

Scott’s mother, Christine Rush summed it up.

I feel very let down by our Australian Federal Police – we tried to lawfully stop our son leaving the country, it wasn't done
[…]
The Federal Police can do, go wherever they want, do anything, anytime without supervision from the Australian Attorney-General or from the Justice Minister
[…]
This is not good for Australians and our laws need to be changed to protect our citizens and this must not happen to any Australian citizen again
-- Christine Rush

The Australian Federal Police have let down the Rush family, the Bali Nine and the Australian community. And their actions were supported by the PM, John Howard, the opposition leader, Kim Beazley, the Federal Justice Minister, Senator Chris Ellison and even the Federal Court. Maintaining ties with Indonesian has been a key ingredient in Canberra’s strategy for many years, despite the corruption, the human rights violations and barbaric practices that conflict with Australian standards. Why would the government let the lives of 9 lowly drug traffickers risk this special relationship?

Andrew Chan, Si Yi Chen, Michael Czugaj, Renae Lawrence, Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen, Matthew Norman, Scott Rush, Martin Stephens and Myuran Sukumaran conspired to import heroin into Australia. They are not murderers, rapists or violent thugs. The penalties, so easily dished out by the Indonesian courts are simply not reflective of their crimes and if they were apprehended in Australia, they would all be free now. Something is very, very wrong with this situation and unless something is done, we will continue to lose our loved ones because of misguided, manmade laws and the authorities who let it happen.


Soon I Learn Whether I Live Or Die, Rush Writes
By Tom Allard
July 2010

Unable to sleep in Kerobokan prison's death tower and aware his final legal appeal to overturn his appointment with an Indonesian firing squad was about to be lodged, Scott Rush composed a letter yesterday.

''This is likely to be my last chance to write to you before I know whether I live or die,'' he wrote to the federal parliamentarian Chris Hayes, one of many letters he has sent the MP since his arrest in April 2005. ''I am not a celebrity, I am a criminal deserving just punishment.''

It was a brutal sentiment characteristic of the youngest member of the Bali Nine drug smuggling ring, who is one of three on death row. He was unflinching about his fate and his own failings.

For his family, supporters and Indonesian and Australian lawyers , ''just punishment'' is not death but a 15-year jail term, the core of the judicial review submitted on his behalf yesterday.

A comprehensive and compelling case has been assembled. In an extraordinary development, Mick Phelan, the man who led the Australian Federal Police investigation into the Bali Nine and tipped off Indonesian authorities, has been persuaded to testify in Bali on Rush's behalf.

Rush's father, Lee, had pleaded with the AFP before his son took the fateful trip to Bali - his first overseas - to stop him from travelling, suspicious that Rush, dabbling with drugs, was planning to travel to Bali despite having no money.

The AFP was pilloried for its behaviour, knowing that Indonesia can apply the death penalty for drug crimes, and considerable pressure has been put on it to do everything it can for Rush.

Among the others testifying for him will be an Australian-based Islamic cleric, Suliman Sabdia, a Catholic priest, Father Tim Harris, and Rush's former solicitor, Judge John North.

Judge North has a letter from the former AFP commissioner Mick Keelty acknowledging Rush was a minor player.

Mr Phelan, who is now a deputy commissioner, has also provided a sworn statement for Rush, stressing he was only a courier and this was ''his first involvement in an importation of drugs''. ''Given recent sentencing history in Australia for similar offences, it is highly likely that a sentence much lesser than the maximum of 25 years would have been imposed on Scott Anthony Rush if he had been prosecuted in Australia,'' the statement says.

The AFP evidence will be pivotal to Rush's case, which rests in large part on proving Rush was only a courier. It also constitutes new evidence, one of the requirements under Indonesian law for a judicial review of a death penalty sentence.

Other arguments are that other Bali Nine members who played a similar role were given lighter sentences, and that Indonesian law requires that the death penalty be applied selectively.

Professor Andrew Byrnes from the University of NSW, who is recognised by Indonesia's Constitutional Court as an impartial expert on international law and the death penalty, has also provided a submission and will testify for Rush.

Numerous errors have also been identified in the sentence, including the assessment that only the death penalty can apply in Rush's case and a failure to consider mitigating circumstances such as his age and remorse.

It is also argued that Rush was incorrectly found to have ''exported'' drugs, when, in fact, he was arrested with heroin strapped to his body at Denpasar airport before passing through Indonesian customs.

Rush is unaware of much of the detail of his case, including Mr Phelan's unprecedented testimony.

''I truly feel sorry for the hurt and pain I've caused to my parents,'' he writes to Mr Hayes.

''I hope to have the chance to proove [sic] I am capable of reform. I want to give back to my community and be an ambassador against drugs.''

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Indonesian Disgrace


Indonesia, like most Asian countries have harsh drug laws which can include long jail terms and the death penalty. While the more spectacular busts might attract attention here, what we don’t hear much about are the many Aussies being jailed in these countries for months or even years for possessing just a small amount of illicit drugs. The Bali 9 and Schapelle Corby are household names for their drug smuggling charges in Indonesia and the media made sure they would all be remembered. But what about Jason McIntyre who faces 10 years in jail for 5 grams of hash or Shane Demos who got 8 months for having 5.9g of dried hash and 0.3g of heroin? In Australia, these charges would not lead to jail time and that’s if they made it to court at all. Maybe we should look at the strange circumstances and possible corruption involving drug arrests in Indonesia. Why would Jason McIntyre be facing 10 years jail when he had fewer drugs than Shane Demos? Neither had a criminal record and the drugs they had were for personal use but Shane Demos was given (only) 8 months. Why wouldn’t the Indonesian court accept certain requests for forensic evidence from Schapelle Corby’s legal team? Why did the Australian Federal Police (AFP) feel obliged to tip off the Indonesian authorities about the Bali 9 rather than making the arrest themselves. Especially considering that the AFP’s decision was most certainly condemning the Bali 9 to the death penalty. Why was a request by Schapelle Corby’s legal team for important CCTV footage from Qantas denied? Where was the the Australian government on this? The addition of shifty behaviour from Australia must also raise some questions.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, when questioned on ABC radio, arrogantly declared that he had no control over such issues, stating: “I’m not the minister for tapes.” He also made clear that, apart from some limited assistance to Corby’s lawyers and private talks with Indonesian foreign affairs officials, there would be no political intervention by Canberra.
-Muted response by Canberra as Australian woman faces death penalty in Indonesia - wsws.org
We all know that Alexander Downer is a lying, poncy sleaze but the whole government clammed up. When Schapelle Corby’s legal team requested finger prints from the inner bag containing the cannabis, the Indonesian court denied the request and then allowed the bag to be handled without gloves by anyone. It was an obvious flaw in the investigation but neither the AFP nor the Australian government said a word. Barbaric Drug Laws What is interesting to know is that extreme drug laws have been proven not to significantly deter drug use but many countries still continue with their draconian drug laws. The US is a classic example where harsh laws have done nothing to halt the uptake of drugs and ironically they have the world’s highest rate of drug use. Some countries like Indonesia are actually proud of catching and executing drug related criminals and are not afraid to say so.
To give them a lesson, drug traffickers must be executed immediately
-General Sutanto. Indonesian National Police Chief and Chairman of the National Anti-Narcotic Body
Indonesia isn’t alone when it comes to barbaric drug policies. Thailand, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, China etc. are all guilty of human rights violations where it’s not only their drug laws but their so called rehabilitation for drug addicts. The latest International Harm Reduction Conference (IHRA) held in Bangkok last week exposed the shameful behaviour of these countries and called on the world to enforce human rights and harm reduction procedures. Under the guise of drug addiction treatment, these countries are complicit in torture and abuse for those detained in “work camps” or compulsory treatment centres. The spread of HIV/AIDS and Hep C is epidemic, methadone is rare, addicts are beaten, tortured and forced to live in sub-human conditions. When released, they are often abandoned by their families and seen as outcasts which inevitably leads back to drug abuse. Below is an article from the Drink and Drug News newsletter reporting on the IHRA conference.
Describing experiences that spanned 30 years in Malaysian drug dependence treatment centres, Shaharudin bin Ali Umar showed photographs of weapons used to discipline him and the scars he had suffered from repeated beatings. 'If you are suspected as a drug user you are given compulsory treatment and kept under observation. If you relapse you get more jail sentences and lashes,' he explained. 'But the result is not effective – there is a 70 to 90 per cent rate of return to drug use.' The military style discipline and abuse included beatings with baseball bats and bricks and being burned on his genitals with a lighter. 'The scars may finally have healed, but the bad memories remain forever,' he said. 'I was humiliated and beaten until I forgot what pain is.' Interrogation began at the admission process. Then detoxification took between two weeks and a month,during which 'when the guard changed they started torturing us – humiliating torture I feel too shy to tell you'. A medical check-up and 'orientation process' were followed by a phasing system,which involved 'being beaten by a religious teacher and treated as animals'. While hopeful that changes were on the horizon,he said progress was hampered by the impossibly large size of the rehab centres, lack of methadone for detox and constant beatings. 'Harm reduction in Malaysia is like a sandcastle – built up by community organisations and then torn down by enforcement activities,' he said. Srey Mao from Cambodia – whose colleague took over her conference presentation when she became too traumatised to speak about her experiences in a detention centre – told of 'a place where living conditions are not for humans'. Packed into one room 'where they don't care what age or sex you are', and where there was no toilet, food,water,nor mosquito nets,she had seen her friend die from a beating,another drown trying to escape,and a fellow inmate electrocuted. The backdrop to her presentation showed Srey Mao reaching through bars of a crowded cage. 'Srey Mao would like this facility closed,' said her colleague. 'She would like the Cambodian government or anyone who can help,to close this down.'
-Harm Reduction ‘Torn Down By Enforcement’ - Drink and Drug News

Corruption
One of the major problems with extreme drug laws is the ingrained corruption. Even without the harsh punitive laws, the immense profits from the illegal drug trade is probably the single largest cause of corruption we know of. Although most dependant drug users rarely consider the legal consequences when desperate for their next dose, once caught, it all changes if they are facing a firing squad or decades in prison. This gives incredible power to low ranking police officers who often earn very little and have absolute contempt for drug users.
Indonesia is one of the world's most corrupt countries
-Wiki Travel
Is Indonesia corrupt when it comes to drug arrests? The readers forums in our major newspapers are full of criticism for Indonesia’s legal system since the Bali bombings in 2002. The criticism continued to grow when Schapelle Corby made headlines in 2004 and the Bali 9 in 2005. But not all of the comments were anti-Indonesian as many readers declared Corby and the Bali 9 should be executed because they were drug dealers and should be subject to Indonesian laws. Were the comments made by readers just pure speculation and emotional outpouring or were they based on real life experience? The fact is, Indonesia has a long history of corruption and and bribes are deeply rooted in the legal system. Add into the mix, extremely harsh drug laws with an underpaid police force and you have opened the gates of hell for Indonesia’s drug addicts and their families. For a more detailed look, read the brilliant article below by Nick Perry.
Winning A Battle, Losing The War
Drug users in Indonesia are made vulnerable by current drug laws
Inside Indonesia
By Nick Perry
May 2009

Merry Christina was 26 years old when she and her boyfriend were arrested by police while injecting heroin in a South Jakarta slum. Taken to the district police station, the officers cut Merry a deal: she could have her drugs back and leave the prison without charge if she agreed to ‘service them sexually’. Facing a serious prison sentence if she refused, and struggling with her decade-long heroin addiction, Merry was left with little choice. She agreed to their proposition and the officers returned her drugs. She was then blindfolded and repeatedly raped and physically abused by several officers over a five day period at the station. At the same time, her boyfriend was beaten and tortured in a separate cell. When the ordeal was over Merry and her boyfriend were released without charge. ‘It is widely known among drug-using communities that if you are caught by police and are a woman,’ said Merry, now an NGO worker staying clean through a methadone program, ‘you can just sexually satisfy the officers and there is no need for you to seek legal counsel or face punishment.’ Merry’s experience is one shared by many drug users in Indonesia. Organisations advocating on behalf of drug users in Indonesia have been lobbying for the laws about drug use to be changed; however, they have faced a government that is reluctant to see drug users as victims who need help.


Torture and extortion
The Indonesian government has long claimed to be fighting a ‘war on drugs’. However, since 2006 the number of people abusing substances in Indonesia has risen almost six-fold to 3.2 million. According to a report presented by the Indonesian Coalition for Drug Policy Reform (ICDPR) there has been a correlating spike in human rights abuse cases and social discrimination against drug users nationwide. The ICDPR report draws together years of research conducted across drug-using communities in nine major cities in Indonesia. The research was carried out by the NGO Stigma Foundation (Stigma) and the Law Faculty and HIV/AIDS Research Centre at Atma Jaya University, as well as by the Community Legal Aid Institute. Alarmingly, it found that almost all respondents claimed to have been extorted for money, physically or sexually abused, or tortured by police officers while being detained on drug offences. ‘Even though Indonesia has signed an international ratification against torture, the practice among the police force against drug users is very common, and on the rise,’ said Asmin Fransiska, lecturer on International Human Rights and Law at Atma Jaya University and co-founder of the ICDPR. ‘Women in particular face sexual abuse at the hands of police officers. When they are taken to the police station, they are often forced to strip naked in front of other officers or are simply raped with the threat of imprisonment if they do not agree.’ Testimonies from hundreds of drug users interviewed for the report paint a similarly horrific picture: blindfolded beatings, cigarettes put out on bare flesh, electrocutions and threats of murder. The penalty for possession of a single gram of heroin is currently 15 years which makes extortion another common practice used by police. ‘The common custom is for police to ask how much money you are willing to pay, or what you are willing to do, in order for them to change the offence they arrested you for,’ Fransiska said.


Police blackmail users for information about other users and dealers and reward them with high-quality heroin

Jarot, a former long term heroin user, has been imprisoned three times in the past for heroin possession. After serving time in an overcrowded Jakarta prison, where more than half the inmates are drug addicts and almost ten per cent leave having been infected with HIV, he was willing to do anything to avoid another prison sentence. ‘Police blackmail users for information about other users and dealers and reward them with high-quality heroin,’ Jarot said. ‘They then become cepu [spy].’ Many of the most impoverished drug users are vulnerable to this informal - and highly illegal - relationship with police officers. They lack the cash to bribe themselves out of their convictions and they have an overwhelming addiction to feed. According to Anto Suwanto, Field Coordinator at Stigma, cepu are often the target of reprisal attacks from dealers and other users, and are sometimes even murdered for their apparent betrayals. When asked if he had ever worked as a cepu for the police, Jarot turned away, looking down. After a few moments, he quietly answered, ‘Yes’.

Self-inflicted criminals
The current laws controlling illicit drugs in Indonesia are Law No. 5/1997 on Psychotropics and Law No. 22/1997 on Narcotics. Both laws were introduced under the dictatorial New Order regime but were not repealed or even altered until very recently. The meanings embedded in these laws and the ways they have been implemented have created problems for drug users. There is little distinction made between a drug user and a drug dealer under article 78 of the Narcotics Law. The article makes both criminals deserving severe punishment. According to legal principles there must be a victim and an offender in a crime. However, in this situation, the drug user plays both roles in the offense. This presents something of a conundrum to lawyers fighting for drug users to be treated as addicts who require help, rather than as prisoners requiring lengthy prison terms. The fact that the World Health Organization considers drug use a ‘chronic relapsing brain disease’ is not taken into consideration by judges and lawmakers, explained Professor Irwanto, Chair of the Institute for Research and Community Services at Atma Jaya University. ‘The strange thing is, the law is written as such that the crime has no victim, except oneself. It is like a self-inflicted crime,’ Irwanto said. While Indonesia has taken a hardline stance on drugs for some time, often punishing traffickers with death, a sudden surge in funding for law enforcement in recent years has seen drug users facing an increasing threat of abuse and discrimination. Between 2000 and 2004, drugs were not listed by the government as a major issue to be dealt with, and were discussed in terms of welfare and protecting the youth. However, since 2005, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has deemed narcotic abuse a serious national problem that threatens security as well as religious and moral values. ‘Since 2006, the government has allocated 200 billion rupiah to enforcing the Narcotics Law, which has only resulted in an increase in the deaths of drug users, the number of HIV/AIDS cases and the arrests of drug users,’ said Rido Triawan, a Stigma advocate heavily involved with ICDPR. ‘Data shows that last year, many more people were arrested for using drugs, but only two per cent of the total figure were actually arrested for dealing.’

Reform on the horizon, for better or for worse
Indonesia is currently at a crossroads with its domestic drug policy. With parliament having resumed following the legislative elections on 9 April 2009, soon the newly-elected People’s Representative Council will recommence deliberating an amendment to the National Narcotics Law. This amendment was first submitted for consideration in 2005 by the Department of Law and Human Rights. Groups such as the ICDPR initially thought that this amendment would follow global trends by softening the ‘war on drugs’ ideology and shifting toward a more humane approach toward drug users. In actual fact, if this amendment is passed the situation for drug users and the state of human rights in Indonesia will almost certainly become worse. Ending the criminalisation of drug use is the linchpin of the ICDPR’s alternative approach to drug policy in Indonesia. To ICDPR members’ dismay, neither decriminalisation nor a raft of other crucial reforms were addressed in the proposed amendment to the Narcotics Law. If anything, this amendment will upgrade the criminal status of drug users and equip police with new powers to deal with them. Currently, a user can be legally detained for a maximum 24 hours, whereas the amendment will extend that detention to 72 hours. This not only increases the likelihood and opportunity for abuse to occur, it also throws potentially vulnerable addicts into an already overcrowded prison system rife with drug abuse, HIV/AIDS and violence. Another issue in prison is intimidation, explained Fransiska. Human rights lawyers are finding it increasingly difficult to defend users accused of possession because police pressure them into believing that if they fight the charges, they will receive a harsher sentence. ‘Sometimes they [drug users] will express interest in seeing a lawyer, but then after a night in prison, they suddenly change their mind. They claim they never wanted a lawyer, or they don’t know you, or that you are lying,’ Fransiska said. ‘Police are intimidating users and interfering with their proper legal rights.’ ‘Women are particularly reluctant to discuss their abuse, because they are afraid both society and their families will stigmatise them and be ashamed of the sexual abuse they have suffered,’ Fransiska said. After Sekar Wulan Sari was arrested for heroin possession, police officers threatened to sexually assault her if her boyfriend did not return with a bribe of several million rupiah for her release. After being exiled from her family, and following a lengthy rehabilitation process, Wulan helped form the Stigma Foundation. She understands first hand the risks posed by harsh articles in the amendment, particularly those that encourage the public to identify drug users in their neighbourhoods and families. ‘Not only are drug users being criminalised by the state, but now families and society are being threatened. Under the amendment, if you are aware of a drug user in your area or in your family and don’t report them to police, you could face court or prison,’ Wulan said. According to Fransiska, the responsibility for resolving drug issues should not be forced upon the community, particularly when law enforcement agencies are simply ‘incapable of carrying out their duties'.

After Sekar Wulan Sari was arrested for heroin possession, police officers threatened to sexually assault her if her boyfriend did not return with a bribe of several million rupiah for her release

The planned reform has thrust the death penalty for drug offences back into the limelight. If passed, the maximum penalty for possession of one gram of heroin will be increased from 15 years prison to death, providing police with even greater ammunition to leverage drug users for money and gratification.

Lobbying for a black campaign
ICDPR members admit that tackling law reform in Indonesia is complicated and overwhelming, but they do not ‘view laws as being almost untouchable’, as Fransiska claims many organisations continue to do. The ICDPR have lobbied the government through international mechanisms as well as by directly targeting politicians with mixed results. The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Vienna on 11 March 2008 to review the effectiveness of the last decade of international drug policy. The Indonesian government sent a delegation of Health, Education, Security and National Narcotic Agency (BNN) representatives who signed an international ‘Political Declaration’ on narcotics. The ICDPR sent its report to Vienna as a means of lobbying international states, particularly progressive European countries which provide funding to Indonesia, to encourage the government to change its human rights and drugs policy. The UN system tends not to cast judgements on particular governments, so the Indonesian delegation essentially signed the agreement without ever being directly addressed about its own domestic policy. ‘It seems the meeting [in Vienna] was fairly non-transparent,’ said Professor Irwanto, ‘with Indonesia being represented by people who may not have necessarily understood the real issue of drug abuse.’ When coalition members met with parliamentarians on 10 December last year for International Human Rights Day, they were surprised to learn that many politicians believed drug users were victims and supported, in theory, a shift toward drug policies that focused on decriminalising drug use. But lobbying for support from legislative candidates in the lead up to the general elections was virtually impossible as being seen as being soft on drugs remains a potential source of ‘black campaigns against their re-election efforts’, Fransiska said. Even though the amendment has not yet been passed, the ICDPR is pessimistic about its chances of being rejected by the incoming parliament. Stigma is focusing its attention on younger candidates linked to NGOs in the hope that future legislators will have a fresh perspective about the current perpetual cycle of targeting drug users and ignoring human rights abuses. ‘After we know who the legislative members are, we will approach them in order to get support for our work,’ said Ricky Gunawan, program director at the Community Legal Aid Institute, after the recent elections. With newly-elected legislators to take their seats in the coming months, and with the ICDPR planning to meet once again with representatives from the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, National AIDS Commission, Supreme Court and Ministry of Health, their overarching concern now is that many of the steps toward reform made in past months by advocates may have been in vain.


Nick Perry is currently living in Indonesia where he is the subeditor on the national news desk at the Jakarta Post newspaper. Nick holds a Bachelor in Communications (Journalism) degree from the University of Technology, Sydney, and regularly submits articles for publications both in Indonesia and abroad.