After the attacks that hit Jakarta last week, concluded with the death of four civilians and four attackers, Indonesian President Joko Widodo asked yesterday the review of anti-terrorism laws in force in the archipelago.
The proposed amendment would clearly go in the direction of a tightening of security controls, and allows security forces to immediately arrest any person suspected of planning terrorist attacks. The police fear that Indonesian jihadists engaged in Middle – East and North Africa may return home to prepare new attacks.
The proposal has generated concerns because many feel that a new more restrictive anti-terrorism law could lead to an excessive increase of the controls and be used as a tool of repression in a country that has already suffered from the weakness of its rule of law.
The new legislation would also allow the police to detain suspects for more than a week (current limit), without charge, and would make illegal any military activity with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. According to local authorities estimates, some 500 Indonesians have already left to fight as foreign fighters alongside jihadists of Daesh. 100 of these have already returned without having gained ,however, in most cases, combat experience.
The reform advocated by President Widodo should be approved quickly enough, given the cross support expressed by the majority of political forces represented in Parliament. Only some opposition parties have expressed their fears for a change that could result in suppression of dissent and freedom of expression. Along the same lines were, concerns were expressed by human rights organizations and radical Islamic groups.
It is feared that, in the wake of the attacks, the country can take a step back on the path of democracy, giving the police powers similar to those exercised during the 32 years of bloody dictatorship of General Suharto, when hundreds of thousands of dissidents accused of communism were persecuted and brutally murdered by militia supported by the regime.