The Repetitive Tear Gas Tragedy: Stop Excessive Approaches and the Use of Chemical Weapons in Football Match

The Civil Society Alliance for Police Reform strongly condemns the excessive and disproportionate actions carried out by the police during the match between Gresik United and Deltras Sidoarjo at the Gelora Joko Samudro Stadium in Gresik, East Java, on November 19, 2023. Based on information circulating through various media platforms, it is evident that the police resorted to excessive use of force, including firing tear gas at supporters, with the projectiles reaching beyond the stadium towards the street.

We have gathered information that initially, the match proceeded with normal tension and without any friction. Deltras Sidoarjo won the match, leading to the home team, Gresik United, suffering a defeat. This resulted in disappointment among Gresik United supporters due to their favored team’s loss. The disappointment led some supporters to express their frustration by throwing bottles of mineral water towards the Gresik United players. As a result, the players were trapped on the field and couldn’t enter the locker room because they were blocked by their own supporters throwing objects.

The impact inside the stadium escalated outside, where hundreds of Gresik United supporters gathered in front of the main stadium entrance with the aim of expressing their dissatisfaction and calling for the dismissal of the Gresik United coach. However, in the process of conveying their dissatisfaction, some individuals in the crowd began throwing stones at the police, causing the police to only defend themselves. Observing the situation, which resulted in casualties ranging from supporters to police officers falling, the police then took a repressive approach.

The use of tear gas was the repressive measure employed by the police, as seen in circulating videos.

Relating to the shooting incident, we assess that the Police are suspected of having used excessive force. Referring to Article 2, paragraph (2) of the National Police Chief Regulation Number 1 of 2009 concerning the Use of Force in Police Actions, it is stated that: ‘The use of force must go through stages of preventing, obstructing, or stopping the actions of criminals or Suspects who are attempting or engaging in acts contrary to the law.’ Furthermore, we observed the forced use of tear gas despite some supporters requesting the police not to use tear gas. Additionally, in the video footage, it is evident that projectiles were fired onto the streets, clearly violating the principle of proportionality, which states that the use of force must be commensurate with the threat faced. However, in practice, the police did not seem to consider this comprehensively. Moreover, referring to the principle of necessity (the measured use of force appropriate to the situation), the firing of tear gas onto the streets indicates that the use of force was not measured. Furthermore, it is explicitly stated in the National Police Chief Regulation that the use of firearms or chemical weapons, including tear gas, should be the last resort if the situation is deemed to cause chaos.

In addition to violating the National Police Chief Regulation, the actions taken by the Police also constitute a violation of FIFA regulations, which clearly regulate the prohibition of tear gas usage through the FIFA Stadium Safety and Security Regulations.2 The regulations also explicitly state that the use of tear gas weapons is prohibited by FIFA, and they are not even allowed to be brought in for the purpose of securing football matches.

Aside from the Kanjuruhan Tragedy, the Police also issued Regulation Number 10 of 2022 on Security and Implementation of Sports Competitions, which essentially prohibits the use of tear gas, smoke grenades, and firearms, as outlined in Article 31 of the regulation.

The use of tear gas in dispersing the supporters’ crowd in this incident is clearly an inappropriate action. Based on several publicly circulated videos, one tear gas canister appears to have been haphazardly fired towards the street in front of the Gelora Joko Samudro Stadium in Gresik. The implication of the tear gas smoke can have an impact on individuals who are not involved in the incident at all. Furthermore, the stadium’s proximity to residential areas exacerbates the concern.

It seems that there has been no learning from the events of one year ago, the Kanjuruhan Tragedy, where tear gas was fired at Indonesian Football Club in Semarang (PSIS) supporters. The police once again chose tear gas as the primary method to calm the situation and control the crowd to maintain order. This further indicates that the police have not truly learned from past experiences. The seriousness of the police in evaluating any form of abusive and excessive approaches, especially in securing sports events, is questionable.

“This case should be a collective subject of evaluation by all parties involved, including the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI), the National Police (Polri), club management, and football supporters. A comprehensive evaluation effort must be undertaken to promote a more organized football environment in Indonesia, and certainly, to incorporate human rights values to prevent the recurrence of atrocities that sacrifice anyone’s life” said Dimas Bagus Arya, Coordinator of KontraS.

According to several statements above, we would like to convey several points:

First, we strongly condemn any form of police actions involving the firing of tear gas. We urge the Chief of the Indonesian National Police to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of police personnel, including those responsible on the field, regarding allegations of excessive and disproportionate use of force during the security operation for the football match between Gresik United and Deltras Sidoarjo. We call for the investigation to be carried out transparently and accountably, and for those responsible for the shooting to be punished in accordance with applicable procedures.

Second, we urge the Minister of Youth and Sports and the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the security measures during Indonesia League matches. We also call for the postponement of all matches until a fair and just investigation process is carried out, starting from the Kanjuruhan Tragedy, PSSI incident, to the Gresik United vs Deltras Sidoarjo incident.”

Jakarta, 19 November 2023


Dimas Bagus Arya
KontraS Coordinator

Contact Person: +6281-259-269-754