Subject: JP: Debate over decree on terrorism continues

The Jakarta Post

October 18, 2002

Debate over decree on terrorism continues

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Legal experts criticized the government on Thursday for its abrupt issuance of an emergency decree on terrorism, which is expected to be announced today.

The criticisms focused on the fact that the decree fails to refer to any of the international conventions on terrorism.

Fadjrul Falaakh of the National Law Commission and Rudy Satrio of the University of Indonesia said that the many international conventions on terrorism needed to be ratified to show the government's seriousness in combating terrorism.

"International conventions are the best guidelines as their articles, more or less, are sufficient to detect possible terrorist attacks as well as guaranteeing human rights," he said.

Indonesia, so far, has ratified four of the existing 12 international conventions on terrorism. All four of those conventions, which are related to aviation security, were ratified before 1988. Unfortunately, no law has been issued to implement them.

"We have yet to create a law (to implement the conventions). But we are preparing it," said Abdul Gani Abdullah, director of Law and Legislations at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.

He added that the government was concentrating on the emergency decree.

The emergency decree -- adopted from the draft of the antiterrorism bill that has been sidelined for more than a year by the House of Representatives --- is said to be consistent with Resolution No. 1373 (2001) from the United Nation's Security Council on terrorism.

The introduction to the decree says it was proposed to comply with international conventions on terrorism.

Rudy, a criminal law lecturer, specifically warned that the creation of a decree only based on the undeliberated draft of the antiterrorism bill could lead to unfavorable consequences for the country in the future.

"The government must learn from history," he said, referring to the establishment of the Human Rights Law and Human Rights Tribunal Law.

Indonesia completed the laws amid mounting international pressure to prosecute human rights abusers in East Timor. Unfortunately, the state lost in most cases as the ad hoc tribunal court acquitted the defendants, who are mostly military or police officials formerly posted in East Timor.

"Prosecutors were too inexperienced with human rights issues to prove any indictments due to, among other things, weaknesses in the laws, which were made in a rush. We certainly don't want a similar thing to occur in the future. It's embarrassing," said Rudy.

The emergency decree is aimed at accelerating the establishment of a legal instrument to combat terrorism in the wake of the recent deadly bombing in Bali, which killed at least 184 people and injured hundreds of others.

The decree would enable law enforcers to take preventive actions, something that is prohibited by the Criminal Code Procedure here which requires law enforcers to produce hard evidence before arresting a suspect.

According to the decree, law enforcers could arrest suspected terrorists based only on intelligence reports which have been approved by a district court through a closed hearing.

Rights activists have widely objected to the planned issuance of the decree, fearing a possible abuse of power as had happened with the antisubversion law under Soeharto.

The antisubversion law, which stipulates preventive actions, has been turned into a draconian law as it was used by the New Order regime to oppress perceived political opponents.

Despite the criticism, the government's move to issue the emergency decree on terrorism gained support from the House, ironic considering that the House has been blamed for stalling its passage.

The support was raised following a meeting between President Megawati Soekarnoputri, accompanied by several Cabinet members, and several legislators led by convicted corrupter and House Speaker Akbar Tandjung on Thursday to discuss the decree and other items.

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