Reforming Indonesia’s Anti-Terrorism Laws: Addressing New Threats and Challenges

No data was found

The Indonesian government’s counterterrorism efforts, adopted in reaction to the 2002 Bali bombings and further incursions by militants in the 18 years since can mostly be seen within the framework of the “criminal justice model.” Through this approach, terrorism has been dealt with foremost as a crime, and the Indonesian government has embraced a coercive counterterrorism strategy. 

The war against terrorism has taken place within the existing legal framework. When the Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Terrorism – the national agency for fighting terrorism – was launched after the Jakarta hotel bombings in 2009, it was the first time that the police, military, and intelligence mechanisms had joined forces to establish a more collaborative and concerted nationwide counterterrorism strategy.

Yet Densus 88 – the particular anti-terror unit of the police – which was launched in the trace of the Bali attacks in 2002 and 2005 and whose procedures are not mandated by the BNPT, has been primarily responsible for pursuing terror suspects. The presumed role of the military was to focus on preventing terrorism only within the BNPT concept. This apparent split of responsibilities, however, does not exist in practice.

Calls for decreased military involvement in counterterrorism have become more severe since President Joko Widodo publicly advocated a more critical role for the military in 2017. Muhammad Syafii, the commission chairman charged with revising current anti-terror laws, also stated that he favored this orientation.

Indonesian human rights organizations, such as Imparsial, insisted that Widodo should sustain the existing criminal justice standard, even after the anti-terror laws were changed, to prevent the abuse of power by the armed forces. Yet, as a result of the catastrophic string of bomb attacks carried out in Surabaya by Islamist militants in 2018, the decision was created to grant the military a more significant role. 

A vital example of the heightened involvement of the military is Operation Tinombala in Poso, Central Sulawesi, which was launched in 2016 as a joint army-police operation to destroy the threat posed by the terrorist group Mujahidin Indonesia Timur, which is engaged in the region.

While this assignment can be seen as a relatively prosperous example of cooperation, which resulted in several MIT members being arrested or killed, it took a substantial toll on the local population. 

Recurrence extensions to the procedure were legitimized because MIT had yet to be eliminated and was still recruiting new members. While this endeavor evidences a partly-functioning partnership, its “joint mission” status created ambiguity regarding the designated competencies and “competition between the two security forces.”

Later, this approach became more significant in Indonesia, although some measures were implemented after the 2009 Jakarta hotel blasts. For example, it is evident that important public places, ministries, and embassies, but even places famous with foreign tourists, must and will be shielded by additional security steps such as checks on luggage or vehicles driving through these areas. Much to the guilt of those responsible for developing anti-terror initiatives, measures that were given more attention after ISIS emerged proved to be inconsistent with the anti-terror laws that were accurate before May 2018. Deputy chief of the national police, General Badrodin Haiti, stated, “There is no legal ground in Indonesia’s law that forbids ISIS […] the consequence is that when some people or a group sustainsISIS, we must find another potential charge [to detain them]. If we can’t find one, we have no choice but to release them.” 
Since then, counterterrorism units suppose that the reform of Indonesia’s anti-terrorism laws has satisfactorily addressed this problem. Under new rules introduced, it is now possible to assess Indonesians who joined ISIS abroad and then returned to Indonesia holding belonged to a foreign terrorist organization.

Share this page:

Related content

Operation Rah-e-Rast: Pakistan's Triumph Over Terrorism in Swat

Operation Rah-e-Rast: Pakistan's Triumph Over Terrorism in Swat

In 2009, Pakistan’s military achieved a significant victory in counterterrorism by successfully combating the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan and clearing the Swat region in a major operation, marking one of the…
Sri Lanka's Battle Against Terrorism: Post-Easter Sunday Terror Attacks

Sri Lanka's Battle Against Terrorism: Post-Easter Sunday Terror Attacks

In April 2019, on Easter Sunday, three church congregations in Sri Lanka and three luxury resorts in Colombo were targeted in a sequence of coordinated ISIS-connected terrorist suicide bombings. Around…
The End of Abu Sayyaf: Philippines' Victory over Militancy and Insurgency

The End of Abu Sayyaf: Philippines' Victory over Militancy and Insurgency

The Philippines continues to counter terrorism within its borders. The country’s armed forces persistently thwart terrorism. Recently, the country announced the total dismantling of the most lethal and violent group.…