Indonesian Police Kill 2 Drug Suspects

Putra Andespu
180330-IN-drugs-620.jpg German Siegfried Karl Achim Ruckel (left) and Briton Adam Scott sit with their faces masked as they are presented during a news conference after their arrest on drug charges in Bali, Indonesia, Feb. 22, 2018.

Updated at 11:21 p.m. ET on 2018-03-30

Indonesian police shot dead two suspected drug dealers during separate incidents on Sumatra island, authorities said Friday.

The shootings brought to five the number of drug-related suspects killed since the appointment of Indonesia’s anti-drug czar early this month. Last year, Amnesty International’s Indonesian chapter warned that the government of the sprawling archipelago with almost six million drug users might be mimicking the Philippines’ bloody war on drugs.

On Thursday, police in Aceh province arrested a 33-year-old man on suspicion that he was dealing methamphetamine. The suspect was arrested with two others, but authorities shot him as he tried to flee, Amanto, the drug eradication chief in the province for the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), told BenarNews.

Officers gunned down the suspect after firing “warning shots” into the air during a foot chase, according to Amanto, who uses one name.

Hours earlier, police shot dead another suspected drug dealer after he allegedly snatched a gun from an officer in Labuhan Batu, a regency in North Sumatra.

Police seized 13 kilos (28.6 lbs) and 20,000 ecstasy pills from the suspect, Marhaban Ali, according to Frido Sitomorang, police chief of Labuhan Batu.

“The suspect took our personnel’s gun, so we had to disable him,” Frido told BenarNews. He did not elaborate.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has long been used as a key transit country by transnational organized crime groups for trafficking of heroin and cocaine, according to a January 2017 report from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Most meth found on the Indonesian market still comes from abroad, but Aceh, a conservative Muslim province at the northwestern tip of Sumatra where sharia law is enforced, has been cultivating marijuana during the past few years, the U.N. report said.

In early March, Indonesia’s new anti-drug czar pledged to carry on with the programs and policies of his predecessor, including gunning down narcotics suspects who violently resisted arrest.

“If they resist and they have a weapon, yes, there is no choice [other than shooting the drug dealers],” Inspector General Heru Winarko, the new chief of the anti-narcotics agency BNN, told reporters in Jakarta during his first day in office.

President Joko Widodo, during an event in East Jakarta last year, also instructed officers to shoot drug dealers.

“If they fight and are dangerous, do not tolerate them. We have to be strict,” the president said.

6 million addicts

Last November, citing police data, BNN spokesman Sulistiandriatmoko told reporters there were almost six million drug users out of Indonesia’s total population of 261 million.

In 2017, BNN shot dead 79 alleged drug dealers, arrested 58,365 suspects and seized 4.7 tons of meth, 151 tons of marijuana and 2.9 million ecstasy pills, authorities said.

National Chief of Police Tito Karnavian had instructed law-enforcement officials in July 2017 to shoot drug dealers.

“I have instructed a firm action, shoot them if necessary if they resist arrest,” he said.

Amnesty International researcher Bramantya Basuki said the number of shooting victims was higher than the numbers released by BNN.

In 2016, Bramantya said, 18 people were shot dead. The number spiked to 99 in 2017, he said.

“We have not seen any decrease in shootings this year,” he said. “Because at the end of February there were 13 people who were shot dead.”

In August 2017, Amnesty International Indonesia warned that Jakarta might be trying to copy the brutal anti-drug campaign waged by law enforcement in the Philippines, since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in mid-2016.

Since he became president and as of February, at least 4,043 people have died in Philippine police operations, according to a tally by BenarNews of governmental figures. Human rights groups have blamed thousands of other unaccounted deaths on pro-government vigilantes.

“The Indonesian government has the responsibility to respond to the high number of drug use in this country, but shooting people is not the solution,” Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said in a statement issued in August.

“That action will not solve the problem of long-term drug use,” he said.

An earlier version of this report contained errors. It misreported that seven drug suspects had been killed in March; it gave a wrong timing for the sequence of the two latest fatal drug-related shootings; and it incorrectly identified the title of Amanto, the BNN official.


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