Report: Dozens dead, hundreds injured from Indonesian police abuses in past year

Human rights activists demand a halt to draft police law amid concerns over excessive powers, weak oversight mechanisms.
Arie Firdaus
Report: Dozens dead, hundreds injured from Indonesian police abuses in past year Armed police stand in formation during a ceremony commemorating the 78th Indonesian Police Day in Jakarta, July 1, 2024.
Bay Ismoyo/AFP

A human rights group called for stronger oversight of Indonesia’s national police Monday in a report detailing alleged abuses by officers that led to at least 38 deaths and more than 700 injuries during the past year.

In its report highlighting a need for critical reform within the force, KontraS said it had documented 645 instances of police violence from July 2023 to June 2024.

“Instead of acting to maintain order and security for citizens, police officers have become tools to silence them,” KontraS coordinator Dimas Bagus Arya said at the report’s launch on Monday, which coincided with the national police’s anniversary.

The Indonesian police force has long faced criticism for heavy-handed tactics and a lack of accountability. Despite promises of reform, little progress has been made, activists say.

The report pointed to the June 9 death of 13-year-old Afif Maulana, whose body was found under a bridge with multiple injuries in West Sumatra – a case that has sparked nationwide outrage and calls for police reform.

Last week, Hari Kurniawan, an official at the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said his agency was investigating the case.

“Afif’s death was unnatural, and we suspect unlawful actions by the police,” The Jakarta Post quoted him as saying.

KontraS said it had also documented 622 incidents of violence involving police that resulted in 187 deaths and 1,363 injuries, from July 2023 to July 2024. 

The majority of the fatalities in the previous period happened during a stadium stampede in East Java in October 2022. One hundred thirty-five people were killed after police fired tear gas to disperse fans.

Dimas attributed the alleged abuses to a pervasive culture of violence within the police institution and inadequate internal oversight from government agencies.

“Often, perpetrators of violence do not even receive ethical sanctions or are held criminally accountable for their actions,” he said.

ID-police-killings 2.jpg
Police used tear gas to disperse protesters during a demonstration against an Indonesian government plan to develop Rempang island into a Chinese-funded economic zone that would displace around 7,500 people, in Batam, Riau Islands province, Sept. 11, 2023. [Andaru/AFP]

Monday’s report detailed a wide range of alleged police abuses, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and violations of civil liberties. 

KontraS also said there had been escalating violence in the natural resources and agrarian sectors, where conflicts over land and resources often turn violent. The report said the police allegedly often use arbitrary arrests, imprisonment, and intimidation in many cases, further exacerbating tensions and undermining human rights.

The report’s findings are based on monitoring social media, news reports, and KontraS’ network across Indonesia, as well as direct communication with the victims’ families and public reports, Dimas said. He added that the actual number of cases could be higher due to limitations in data collection.

‘Police do not teach violence’

National Police spokesperson Brig. Gen. Trunoyudo Wisnu Andiko rejected claims of a culture of violence within the police force. He attributed some incidents of violence and misconduct to a few rogue officers. 

“Those are individuals. The police do not teach violence,” he told BenarNews. Trunoyudo declined further comment.

KontraS called for a thorough evaluation of oversight agencies, including the Profession and Security Division (Propam) and the National Police Commission (Kompolnas).

Investigations by Propam often lack transparency, while Kompolnas does not have the authority to conduct investigations, the group said.

KontraS also urged the government and Parliament to halt discussions on a draft national police law, saying it currently has amendments that could grant the police excessive powers without strengthening oversight mechanisms.

Law lecturer Ahmad Sofian expressed doubt that the police are serious about integrating human rights issues into their institution.

“The police have regulations in place for investigating and prosecuting alleged crimes, but these are not being properly adopted in practice,” he told BenarNews on Monday.

“The issue cannot be resolved with regulations alone. It’s about how human rights are taught and internalized at the academy,” said Ahmad, who teaches at the Bina Nusantara University in Jakarta.

A separate KontraS report, released last week on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, highlighted escalating violence against children. The group documented 14 cases of alleged child torture between June 2023 and May 2024, triple the number from the previous year.

Amnesty weighs in

Amnesty International also urged the national police to immediately halt what it called excessive force and arbitrary actions by Indonesian police officers. 

Repressive actions of the police against civil liberties could also continue if amendments to the police law were passed, the group said in a statement on Monday.

“Excessive violence and other arbitrary practices against those who defend their rights, those who are critical [of the government], those who have different political views, continue to occur, and this often involves members of the national police,” said Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia. 

“The national police chief has often stated his intention to reform the police force. It seems this has not yet been realized,” he added. 

Amnesty said it had documented at least 58 cases of arbitrary arrests by the police against 412 human rights defenders between 2019 and 2023. 

Those arrested included Papuan political activists (174), student activists (150), and indigenous people (44), the group said, adding that several journalists, labor and environmental activists, farmers, as well as fishermen had also been arrested while exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Pizaro Gozali Idrus in Jakarta contributed to the report.


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