In Brief

Indonesia: dozens shot dead in Asian Games ‘clean-up’

Amnesty International says police were gunning down petty criminals with impunity

A crackdown on petty crime in Indonesia as the country prepares to host the 2018 Asian Games has coincided with a 64% increase in fatal shootings by police officers, according to Amnesty International.

Research conducted by the human rights group found that Indonesian police officers shot dead 77 people this year.

Deaths peaked last month when 14 people were killed and dozens wounded during what Amnesty described as an “excessive” police operation. The aim was to “clean up” the host cities of Jakarta and Palembang ahead of the Games, which run from 18 August to 2 September.

The shootings follow several directives issued in July by high-ranking police officers. Staff were instructed to take firm action against suspects thought to pose a public threat ahead of the influx of overseas visitors, says The Guardian.

Human rights activists say the directives have been widely interpreted as a carte blanche to suppress suspected criminals by whatever means necessary. This includes extrajudicial killing.

Last month, National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian boasted to reporters that he’d told his officers to “finish off” all networks of pickpockets and bag-snatchers, the ABC reports.

“If [they] fight back, don’t hesitate,” he said.

Usman Hamid, Amnesty International’s Indonesia chief, said that the spike in killings revealed a “clear pattern of unnecessary and excessive use of force by the police”.

He added that the officers involved were shielded by a “constant veil of impunity” for their actions, and demanded that action be taken to properly investigate the deaths.

The brutal crackdown was nowhere to be found in President Joko Widodo’s address to the country’s House of Representatives yesterday.

Applauding the Games as a “golden opportunity” to “amaze the world”, Widodo urged the country to come together to “prove that Indonesia is ready to [lift] Asia’s position in the world”, the Jakarta Post reports.

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