Intelligence Bill Could Lead to Chaos, Activists Warn

Indonesian rights activists and terrorism analysts are concerned that the proposal to give intelligence agencies the power to arrest suspected terrorists without evidence would lead to a chaotic scenario of overlapping turfs with innocent people caught in between.

â??Law enforcers and intelligence agancies work on two different methods. While intelligence relies on information, law enforcers rely on hard evidence that needs to stand in a court of law,â? Haris Azhar, chairman of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), told the Jakarta Globe.

â??Imagine someone being arrested based on information alone?â?

He was commenting on a clause in a draft bill being debated in the House of Representatives that could give the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) the power to arrest suspected terrorists before they attack, as well as people suspected of espionage and subversion.

Angered by some lawmakersâ?? refusal to give BIN the power to arrest terror suspects, Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said on Tuesday that the state should not be blamed if bombs blew up everywhere.

But Haris said the bill could have disastrous consequences, citing the unwarranted arrest and murder of student activists in 1998 and the assassination of human rights advocate Munir Said Thalib on board a Garuda Indonesia flight to Amsterdam in 2004.

â??These cases could happen again if the bill, in its current form, is passed," he said.

â??For acts of terrorism, it should depend on how fast intelligence can gather information and pass it on to the police. This is what the government should focus on rather than creating another overlap in an already messy law enforcement system.â?

Terrorism analyst Noor Huda Ismail also argued that the power to arrest terrorism suspects should be left in the hands of experts such as the Anti-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) and police anti-terrorism unit, Densus 88.

Both institutions already have their own intelligence gathering system, in-depth knowledge of terrorism networks and the capacity to minimize terrorism threats, he said.

â??All efforts to arrest terrorists should be based on evidence not intelligence,â? Huda told the Globe.

â??[If the bill is passed] we might see a lot of arrests of people not necessarily involved in terrorism. This would ultimately lead to hatred towards the government and in turn become ammunition for terrorism cells to conduct recruitment.â?

Anti-terrorism operations conducted by units outside of Densus 88 have had devastating consequences in the past, Huda said.

Three officers from the Aceh Police Mobile Brigade unit were killed during a raid into a suspected terrorism training camp in Aceh last year. This month a mid-ranking officer from a police precinct in East Jakarta was badly injured while attempting to defuse a bomb disguised as a book at the office of a prominent liberal Muslim thinker.

â??This is the danger of overlapping power and authority. If the government is serious about tackling terrorism then it should increase the capacity of bodies already specializing in counter-terrorism like Densus,â? Huda said.