Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Indonesia's anti-terror plan under fire

View complete story by the original source: Sydney Morning Herald Online

A push by Indonesia to dramatically toughen its approach to fighting Islamist militants has come under fire as a threat to human rights that could ultimately reverse gains in tackling extremists.

The security ministry has asked MPs for sweeping amendments to strengthen the hand of the state under the country's 2002 anti-terror law, rushed into effect after bombings in Bali that year that killed 202 people.

The proposed amendments would allow detention of anyone believed to be involved in terrorism for at least 30 days - up from a current seven - without declaring them a suspect, anti-terror chief Ansyaad Mbai told AFP.

The changes would also boost from 120 days to two years the time a suspect can be held before they see the inside of a courtroom and encompass bans on glorifying or inciting terrorism, as well as outlawing terrorist recruitment.

"Terrorism (relies on) networks. It is an extraordinary crime, it needs extraordinary measures," Mbai said.

"Why are all countries practising very tough laws while our laws are very soft?"

Anti-terror chief Mbai said the move to give authorities more clout would bring Indonesia into line with many Western nations that have tough anti-terror laws that allow for preventative detention.

But some terror experts say it will backfire.

Since 2002, Indonesia has won plaudits for a two-track strategy that has seen hundreds of militants accused of violent attacks put on trial while extremists from JI and other groups have been left to preach and recruit undisturbed - no matter how violent the message - as long as they do not take up arms.

But a more draconian turn could radicalise more would-be militants while driving extremists underground, out of the reach of intelligence agencies, International Crisis Group (ICG) South-East Asia director Jim Della Giacoma said.

"By creating a larger group of sympathisers you could be creating larger pools from which to draw radicals and creating larger pools in which radicals could hide," he said.

"These are very hard networks to crack. They are very small in some ways, they all went to school together and all know each other."

Rights groups are alarmed by the move to tighten the law and also say they are concerned by proposals to expand the anti-terror role of the military, blamed for widespread abuse dating back to the New Order regime of former dictator Suharto.

"When Indonesia had anti-subversive laws in the New Order era, the detention period was only 100 days. This is two years," said National Commission on Human Rights head Ifdhal Kasim.

Kasim also said the law, while officially restricted to terrorism, could blur into crackdowns on separatists in regions such as Aceh and Papua.