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Indonesia plans to beef up anti-terrorism law

Updated On: Oct 21, 2005

Jakarta - Allowing police to detain a person without charge for a longer period than currently allowed. Giving intelligence units a greater role in preventing acts of terrorism. These are among some of the changes that will be introduced to Indonesia's existing anti-terrorism law, which has been criticised by many as being an ineffective weapon in the war against terror. 

      The amendments, if passed, will permit pre-emptive measures even against those suspected of promoting radicalism, said Mr Ansja'ad Mbai, who heads the anti-terror desk at the Office of the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs.  
      "The existing law provides only a legal basis for measures in response to acts of terrorism. It's reactive in nature," he told the Post in an interview. 
      Indonesia passed the current Anti-terrorism Law following the bomb attack on Bali in October 2002, which left 202 people dead.  
      Mr Ansja'ad said the latest bombing attacks in Bali on Oct 1 revealed the inadequacy of the existing legal framework for addressing the root causes of terrorism in Indonesia.
      Under the amended legislation, he said, the police would be allowed to detain a person without charge for more than seven days - the maximum period under the prevailing legislation. 
      "The targets of the preemptive measures will range from teachings that promote radicalism to acts of provocation, hatred and hostility. We have no legal basis for taking such measures at the moment," he said.
      Mr Ansja'ad admitted that the tough measures would spark fears of the return of authoritarianism. 
      But he added: "The existing law gives limited room for the state authorities to work, partly because of our concerns about human rights. But there must be a common understanding that we cannot protect the human rights of individuals to such an extent as to sacrifice the rights of the public at large."
     However, a noted human rights activist insisted that the individual's basic rights should not be sacrificed in the name of fighting terrorism.  
     "I don't believe a soft legal umbrella is responsible for our failure to stamp out terrorism," said Mr Asmara Nababan, the executive director of human rights watch Demos.  
     Instead, he blames the problems the government faces in its war on terror on poor coordination among security authorities and non-performing law enforcement personnel.

* War on terror no excuse for rights abuse: Observer (The Jakarta Post, Oct 19)

* Amended terror law to compromise human rights (The Jakarta Post, Oct 18)