JAKARTA (ANN): President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was right to order security agencies to take stern action against rioters in Jakarta last week. The state must have zero tolerance against those wishing nothing but to watch the capital city burn.
The President’s order, however, should not have been interpreted as a license for the authorities to use excessive force against protesters or torture civilians, regardless of their possible crimes, when it is clear they are defenseless and have been restrained.
A viral video showing an accused rioter being dragged, repeatedly kicked and beaten with sticks by antiriot officers in Kampung Bali, Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, on Thursday morning has shown that police brutality is still the norm in Indonesia.
The video, which has been confirmed to be authentic, is disturbing, but the way the police and many social media users responded to the violence is even more unsettling.
The police have identified the victim as Andri Bibir, who was accused of supplying stones to rioters during a clash between supporters of losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and the security officers at the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) office, not far from the parking lot where the beating took place.
It appears that the police are more fixated on correcting the narrative peddled by the opposition, mostly the Islamists, on social media that the man beaten was a 15-year-old boy who ended up succumbing to his wounds and had thus become a syuhada (martyr). The victim, the police said, was a “rioter” and he was still alive.
It took a while for the force to admit that the officers violated standard operating procedures. In the meantime, some people are still blaming the victim, saying that, as a rioter, he was only reaping what he had sowed.
This is a disheartening trend. The police must respect due process. No one should be punished, let alone tortured, before undergoing a fair trial.
A case in point is the very incident in Kampung Bali. Andri Bibir, while admitting that he was the man in the video, implied that he was not involved in the riot, saying that he was sleeping when he heard the police come to arrest him.
Local residents said they believe Andri and others in the neighborhood who were arrested were not involved in the riots. It is possible their only mistake was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Indeed, the police force, not the military, is the institution that should handle civilian affairs, including violent protests. However, reports of police brutality, not only in Kampung Bali, but also in other places during the riots, show that the force needs to improve its professionalism.
We are not savages who believe in the law of the jungle. We are a nation of rule of law that believes in human rights — that every citizen has the right to a fair trial and protection from any form of torture, regardless of the crime. - The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network