After a two-year debate, the Indonesian parliament on Friday unanimously strengthened its 2003 anti-terrorism law, allowing police to take preventative measures and formalizing a military role in counterterrorism efforts.
Pressure to pass the bill grew following terrorist violence over the last two weeks that, according to National Police chief Tito Karnavian, killed 13 civilians, seven police and 31 terror suspects.
The revised law was approved a day after factions in a parliamentary committee handling the bill agreed that spreading ideology or political views that threaten national security could be defined as terrorist acts.
It allows police to wiretap terror suspects without first seeking a warrant from a district court if they are “strongly suspected of preparing, planning, and/or conducting terror acts.”
In addition, those who have been affiliated with or joined illegal military training in Indonesia or overseas aimed at carrying out terror attacks can be charged with violating the anti-terror law.
Special committee chairman Muhammad Syafi’i said Indonesians who visit countries such as Syria would now be assessed when they return and if it was established that they had participated in military training to plan terror acts in the country, they would be charged.
“The National Counterterror Agency [BNPT] is officially in charge of the assessment. If a person has not been yet been exposed to radicalism, that person can be included in a counter radicalization program,” Syafi’i said. “But if he or she is proven to have committed terror crimes or planned to carry them out, he or she can be charged with violating the law.”
Expanded rights for victims
Syafi’i said initiatives in the revised law focus on prevention through countermeasures, rehabilitation and supervision.
Human rights would be addressed during the arrest of terror suspects, Syafi’i said, adding they would be treated humanely and no torture would be allowed.
“This has to be understood to stay in line with the universal principles of human rights,” he said.
In addition, the revised law expands victim protection beyond compensation and restitution.
“The revised law also regulates other rights such as medical assistance, psychological and psychosocial rehabiliation, compensation for lost lives, restitution and compensation distribution,” Syafi’i said.
Law and human rights minister Yasonna Laoly said technical details of the military’s role in combating terrorism would be regulated by presidential decree. The law on the military’s mandate states the force can be involved in counterterrorism as well as military operations and war, he said.
Although Indonesia’s military has already been involved in some counterterrorism operations, such as efforts to flush out Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) militants from the jungles of Central Sulawesi, there had been some resistance to expanding or formalizing that role.
Activists had feared a renewed domestic role for the military could restore its prominent and at times repressive role in civilian life. Withdrawing the military from internal security was a key achievement of the reform era following the fall of dictator Suharto in 1998.
Armed Forces Chief Hadi Tjahjanto said he appreciated parliament’s giving troops additional duties in the fight against terrorism, recognizing the threat to the national security.
“Now that we have been included, we are ready to move, while waiting for the presidential decree to be issued,” he said.
“Surely we will detect any signs that point to terror attacks. We will anticipate it,” he said.
Previously, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said the implementation would commence as soon as the bill was approved.
“What’s most important is how to implement the law,” he said.
Jokowi also said there should be no doubt about the military’s role because it has long been involved in the campaign against terrorism.
“Furthermore, the presidential decree will regulate it,” Jokowi said.