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Rights watchdog doubts police accountability in repurposing civil security apparatus

Jakarta Post - September 23, 2020

Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie, Jakarta – The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has voiced its distrust over the National Police's move to repurpose a private security apparatus dubbed Pam Swakarsa, arguing that the force has a checkered record when it comes to accountability and resolving violations committed by its officers.

In its position paper published on Wednesday, the human rights watchdog rejected the recently issued National Police Chief Regulation No. 4/2020, which grants civilian security actors, such as private security guards (Satpam) and members of the community watch (Satkamling), certain police functions under the force's discretion.

Kontras researcher Danu Pratama Aulia expressed fears that the public might find it hard to make the police accountable if the civil security apparatus committed violations, even though the National Police had assured them that it would train the private guards to prevent them from being repressive.

According to its report published in July, Kontras had recorded 921 instances of police brutality, in addition to other forms of ill-treatment, such as persecution and arbitrary arrests, since June 2019. Danu noted that almost none of the cases were taken to court.

"How can we trust an institution that so far has not been able to professionally control and also give fair sanctions to its members who committed violence?" Danu said on Wednesday. "How can we trust them to supervise and control those who later will be allowed to carry out limited police functions?"

He added that the name "Pam Swakarsa" carried a bad reputation, being that it brought to mind the Pam Swakarsa paramilitary security forces, which were set up by the Indonesian Military in 1998 to break up demonstrations.

The paramilitary forces allegedly committed many repressive acts against demonstrators at that time, most of which remain unresolved to date.

Danu further said that the newly issued regulation possibly violated the 2002 National Police Law, which stipulated that the civil security apparatus should be established under the willingness of the public and be given authority in a limited area.

By giving the police full discretion to appoint which groups would be given power with no clear limitations, Danu said that the regulation took away the aspect of "public willingness" in forming Pam Swakarsa.

The regulation, he added, also gave unclear boundaries on the police functions the civil security apparatus would be allowed to have, thus potentially opening loopholes for abuses of power, human rights violations and for the apparatus to be used for purposes that go against the interests of the public, such as silencing voices in protests or advancing political interests.

Kontras has demanded that the National Police revoke the regulation. "The police should not use a security approach by giving civilians the authority to carry out partial police functions without comprehensive limitations and arrangements."

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/09/23/rights-watchdog-doubts-police-accountability-inrepurposing-civil-security-apparatus.html