New Indonesian terror laws might implicate Papuan groups

A human rights advocate says it may be possible that armed Papuan groups could be implicated under Indonesia‘s new anti-terror laws.

Indonesia‘s parliament last week passed tough new anti-terrorism measures following this month‘s suicide bombings in Surabaya.

Indonesian police officers patrol outside a church following a suicide bomb in Surabaya. Photo: AFP or licensors

The laws allow police to detain suspects for longer and prosecute those linked to militant groups such as Islamic State which claimed responsibility for the Surabaya attacks.

The counterterrorism law had been drafted in 2016 after Islamic State-linked bomb attacks in Jakarta, but had remained idle until this month.

National shock at the style of the Surabaya bombings – where families and children were used to detonate bombs – has galvanised support for President Joko Widodo‘s government in passing this legislation.

So too has concern at the increasing number of people in the world‘s biggest Muslim-majority country being recruited into Islamic State and its violent agenda.

A Surabaya local government photo shows police at the site of a blast outside the Gereja Pantekosta Pusat Surabaya. Photo: AFP / PEMERINTAH KOTA SURABAYA / ANDY PINARIA

While active militant groups are the focus of the toughened laws, Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch Indonesia says various armed groups in Papua are unlikely to meet the definition of terrorism in the Counter-Terrorism Law.

He said their attacks tended to be against police and military officers, whereas terrorism was defined as targeting civilians.

“But this law does not provide definition of what it claims to be other targets of terrorism such as environment, public accommodations or international facilities. It might open the possibilities that the armed groups in Papua could be defined as “terrorist groups” because of these other targets,” said Andreas Harsono.

Highlands-based Defense Region Command of the West Papua National Liberation Army, or TPNPB. Photo: TPNPB

He noted an apparent vagueness around what “environment” as a target might refer to.

The government definied terrorism as an act which “uses violence or threats of violence on a massive scale, and/or causes damage to strategic vital objects, the environment, public facilities or international facilities”.

“Article 6 of the law still criminalizes violence or threats of violence against ‘the environment‘ without providing any definition or clarification as to the meaning of ‘the environment‘,” Mr Harsono said.

However, according to him, the counter-terrorism law clearly targets against groups with arms which include explosives, chemical, biological, micro-organism, nuclear, or radioactive components.

“It does not include political groups, such as the various Papua separatist groups, which campaign for independence using non-violence methods,” he explained.

“The law obviously also does not include traditional arms like machete, arrows and bows.”

Police stand guard as a car that was used to attack the police headquarters is examined in Pekanbaru on May 16, 2018. Photo: AFP

The new bill provides for greater involvement by Indonesia‘s military in anti-terror operations.

“It might create some confusion with the police‘s law enforcement work. It‘s especially problematic in intelligence gathering,” Mr Harsono said.

“(But) the military involvement might be justified if Indonesian terrorists could stage an attack like what the jihadists had down in Marawi, the Philippines.”

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