Police in Jakarta have killed dozens of people as part of an escalating crackdown against petty criminals ahead of the Asian Games, in a campaign Amnesty International has described as “unnecessary and excessive”.
Based on monitoring from January to August this year, Amnesty International said 31 police killings were directly linked to the Games, which open in Jakarta and Palembang on Saturday.
The rights group said police shot dead 77 petty criminals across the whole of Indonesia during the same period, a 64% increase from 2017.
“The hosting of an international sporting event must not come at the price of abandoning human rights. The killings must stop and all deaths must be promptly and effectively investigated,” he said.
About 12,000 athletes are expected to compete in the 18th Asian Games, the largest multi-sporting event outside the Olympics, which will run from 18 August to 2 September. Indonesia is deploying 100,000 police and soldiers to provide security.
Intense preparations have been under way to beautify the capital for the influx of foreign visitors, and the surge in police killings comes as part of a “public safety” operation to secure the cities for the big event.
The shootings follow several directives this July from high-ranking police officers for their personnel “to take firm actions” against suspects who pose a public threat, including a “shoot on sight” policy against those who resist.
Following those orders eleven people were fatally shot in 10 days of July, with rights groups sounding concern that officers had interpreted the statements as “a licence to kill”.
“The Asian Games are intended to celebrate human achievement, not provide a pretext for a police ‘shoot to kill’ policy in the name of crime control,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Despite criticism Indonesia’s national police chief Tito Karniavan chief reaffirmed the policy on 30 July, saying: “If they fight the officers during the arrest then have no doubt, just shoot them.”
In the past two years several Indonesian officials have lauded the killing of criminal suspects and offered praise for President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent drug war in the Philippines.
In July 2017 the national police chief suggested the Philippine example showed that capital punishment was an effective way to deal with drug dealers.
“From practice in the field we see that when we shoot at drug dealers they go away,” he said.