Terrorist acts carried out on 14 January incised more wounds for Indonesia. This incident was clearly a shock to Indonesia, especially the citizens of its capital city, in view of the scene that are at the heart of the city and includes a solid strategic region. This incident also prompted a movement of solidarity and peace, for example the #KamiTidakTakut (we are not afraid) movement, only a day after the incident occurred. This viral action involved people who have concerns and share the same sorrow for the tragedy that occurred in Thamrin area.
This action has also become an interesting phenomenon because, on the day of the incident, the news focused on how fearless the Indonesian citizens were, especially in the capital city. It was beyond how a man was still selling beef skewers as if it was another normal day, but also the fact that many people came to watch the security forces’ action when dealing with the terrorists.
However, another thing that should be of serious concern is the response from the National Intelligence Agency (BIN). BIN chief, Lt. Gen. (retired) Sutiyoso demanded increased authority for BIN to arrest and detain, therefore BIN could optimally operate and would not miss any details in dealing with terrorism while maintaining the protection of human rights. Sutiyoso took example from the priority intelligence process in the United States, France, Malaysia, and other countries when being threatened by terrorism.
BIN chief gave an example about Malaysia that has revised its Terrorism Act and impose the use of electronic bracelets on the hands or feet of suspected terrorists. And it is precisely at this point, we should be aware that the authority to arrest by BIN also means a threat to human rights and freedom, especially when the process is not based on strong evidence.
Cases of wrongful arrests in various ways, torture to obtain forced confessions are not new in this country. Efforts to counter terrorism which claimed prioritizing the protection of human rights should be directly criticized and questioned if such practices still occur. Privacy and human rights violations in the name of combating terrorism is also not a new thing. The United States, after the 911 tragedy, has implemented mechanisms to protect the country, including security systems and screening at its airports, both for foreigners and its own citizens, the deployment of the CIA and FBI, wiretapping, and so forth.
This has led to complaints not only from foreigners, but also the US citizens themselves who feel their privacy is being compromised as a result of the security procedures. Combating terrorism does require alertness of the officials on one hand, but on the other hand strengthening the agency and intelligence processes in the name of security should obviously still uphold the protection of human rights.
Efforts to strengthen the intelligence agency in the name of strengthening the state’s role in the handling of terrorism that we must be cautious about reminds me of the Theory of Securitization from Barry Buzan, Olle Weaver, Jaap de Wilde (1998), related to the analytical framework of security. Securitization is basically the process whereby state actors make up something into a ‘security’ problem. Securitization is an extreme version of politicization that led to an over-reactive way to handle a problem in the name of security. Please note that this article does not mean seeing terrorism as something that is not related to security issues which threaten the state and its citizens.
Obviously, terrorism is distressing and threatening the security of the state and its citizens. However, imagine when other things are securitized by the state and other relevant state actors, in the name of eliminating terrorism, in such a way that it no longer guarantees our freedom and human rights, both for individuals and groups. In the name of security, for example, the government could have done extreme human rights violations and this is we had experienced in the past. In short, as what concerns John Stuart Mill (1859) on the ‘harm principle’, the government can arbitrarily ignore the freedom of individuals and groups in the name of public interest.
For example, implementation of curfew, banning particular group activities because it would be considered as leading to a coup attempt and threatened the stability of the country, forced arrests, banning of books and other works of art, and so forth. Very terrible! And will be even more terrible if we let the government, including through the BIN, to do that. It seems to be going back to square one and burned down the struggle to reform in vain. Of course we do not want this to happen.
Efforts to revise the Law No. 17 Year 2011 on National Intelligence and Law No. 15 Year 2003 on Combating Criminal Acts of Terrorism should be taken carefully. Going back to the concept of securitization, we must be aware that the interpretation of the security issues will also be highly dependent on the decision-makers or the state actors, and their ways to tackle the security issues would be based on their respective interpretations.
Classic excuse about ‘missed information’ would not necessarily be resolved by strengthening the authority of officials in arrest and detention. The principle of the presumption of innocence and legal action with strong evidence, as well as the protection of human rights must be the main foundation. In other words, the eradication of terrorism does not merely rely on the approach of security and violence given the complexity of the problem of terrorism itself. Cooperation between the competent officials in accordance with their authority and function, and the involvement of civil society is crucial in preventing and combating terrorism.
Adinda Tenriangke Muchtar is Chief Editor of Suara Kebebasan. She is also Executive Board Chairperson of Yayasan Kebebasan Indonesia (Indonesian Freedom Foundation) and Executive Director of a public policy think-tank based in Jakarta, The Indonesian Institute, Center for Public Policy Research (TII). Adinda completed her Ph.D. in Development Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand (2018) with scholarship from NZAID. Adinda earned Master of International Studies from The University of Sydney (2003) with scholarship from AusAID and Bachelor of Social Science from International Relations Department, FISIP University of Indonesia (2001). Her focus of interests are development and public policy, democracy and good governance, women’s empowerment, and international aid. Adinda can be reached at email: email@example.com and twitter @tenriangke.