Indonesia Addresses Impact of Radicalism on Children, Teens

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata
170303-ID-children-620.jpg In this screen grab from an Islamic State online propaganda video dated May 19, 2016, children and adults show their passports before burning the documents.

Indonesia is moving to protect children from what officials describe as a growing threat of being exposed to radicalism by adults around them.

In late December, the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) recommended special measures be taken to shield children from such a threat, and in mid-February, the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) pledged to cooperate on the effort.

“We agreed that children should be protected and shielded from terrorism, given the fact that the number of terrorism cases involving children continues to grow,” BNPT chief Suhardi Alius said when signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with KPAI Chairman Asrorun Ni’am on Feb. 13.

Asrorun said the MoU was necessary considering research findings that children were prone to be exposed to terrorism, based on a KPAI survey. The survey has not been made public.

“An example of this is the case in Medan. The perpetrator was only 16 years old and was exposed [to terrorism] on social media. Therefore, KPAI and BNPT felt it necessary to forge cooperation to shield children from terrorism, which they mainly get from digital media,” he said.

Details on how the two agencies would work together on this effort were not released.


Incidents of what KPAI defines as child endangerment in the area of religion and culture rose 42 percent in 2016 from the year before, according to the commission’s year-end report.

It said 256 cases falling under this category were referred to it in 2016, compared with 180 in 2015.

The cases included children who were victims of culture-based violence; children who didn’t get religious education in school that matched their faith; and children who were victims of terrorism attacks and thus deprived of a parental upbringing, education and a sense of security.

They also included two teenagers who received five-year prison sentences after being convicted of terrorism offenses, and 34 children deported with their parents from Turkey after their parents attempted to enter Syria to join the so-called Islamic State.

Those children are in government custody at the Bambu Apus social center in East Jakarta to undergo rehabilitation from the social ministry.

Some Indonesian children are in orphanages in Turkey after being abandoned by parents who went to Syria, according to the BNPT, which is verifying the number of individuals involved. Under Turkish law, they can leave the orphanage only when their parents retrieve them or they reach age 18.

Victims or perpetrators?

Child-rights activists also assert that minors convicted of terrorism offenses should be protected. They should be considered victims, not perpetrators.

Andika Bagus Setiawan was 17 when he was convicted of plotting a terrorist act and sentenced to five years in prison. He reportedly had been in contact with Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian militant in Syria who masterminded the group’s gun and bomb attack in Jakarta in January 2016 that killed eight.

Andika should have been given half the seven-year sentence demanded by prosecutors because he was a juvenile at the time, Supriyadi Widodo Eddyono, executive director of Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, told BenarNews.

“The norm in child protection practice is that all juvenile offenders are in principle assumed as victims who needs rehabilitation,” he said.

Ivan Armadi Hasugian, 16, failed to detonate a bomb outside the St. Yoseph Catholic Church in Medan, North Sumatra in August 2016. He was sentenced to five years in prison in October 2016 by judges of the East Jakarta District Court.

Because of his age, “he should have been sent to rehabilitation instead of serving a prison sentence,” said Ahmad Taufan Damanik, the Indonesian commissioner for child rights in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children from 2010 to 2016.

Each terrorism case involving children should be thoroughly investigated to determine whether the offenders were exploited to carry out the attack, took the initiative on their own or were just exposed to radicalism, he told BenarNews.

Lawmakers working to amend Indonesia’s counterterrorism law are deliberating how to prosecute minors. A draft of the revision states that minors should receive half the maximum sentence stipulated by law when convicted of terrorism offenses.


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