Nina Loasana, Jakarta – A coalition of civil society groups has criticized law enforcement officials in Pekanbaru, Riau, for pursuing criminal cases against those found in violation of the city's large-scale social restrictions (PSBB).
The criticism was made after the Pekanbaru District Court found three people guilty of violating PSBB on Tuesday, according to Antara news agency.
Two of the defendants, prosecutors said, were apprehended for roaming outside without wearing masks and while carrying liquor. The other was a businessperson who opened his or her mini-theatre in violation of PSBB.
The court ordered the former duo to pay fines of Rp 300,000 (US$20.14) each and ordered the businessperson to play Rp 1 million or serve one month behind bars.
Previously, the district court had found 16 people guilty of violating PSBB. They were charged under Article 216 of Criminal Code and Pekanbaru Mayoral Decree No. 74/2020 on PSBB.
Indonesia Judicial Research Society (IJRS) director Dio Ashar said the court should not have punished the people under the Criminal Code.
"The verdicts open the possibility that other law enforcement officers will turn the provisions into pasal karet [catchall articles]," said Dio in a statement on Wednesday.
Article 216 of the Criminal Code stipulates punishments for those found guilty of obstructing the work of law enforcement. The violation carries a maximum punishment of four months and two weeks' imprisonment and a Rp 9,000 fine.
Dio said the provision could only be used to charge those who resisted arrest or fought law enforcement officers.
However, prosecutors used the article to indict those caught in violation of PSBB because the mayoral decree did not stipulate any punishment for violations.
Dio said PSBB violations should only be considered administrative violations, as police officers did not have authority to pursue criminal charges for them.
"Criminal charges, especially those carrying prison terms, should only be used as a last resort. Punishments for PSBB violators should be in line with COVID-19 prevention measures."
Pekanbaru has been under PSBB since May 17. In that time, officials have issued various sanctions for violators, including warnings, tickets and court appearances.
The Jakarta administration has issued a gubernatorial decree to serve as the legal basis for sanctioning those found in violation of PSBB.