Amnesty accuses police of excessive violence at anti-Omnibus Law protests

Source – July 17, 2020
Demonstrators in Makassar hold posters during rally against Omnibus Law – July 16, 2020 (Antara)

Ihsanuddin, Jakarta – Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid has slammed violence by police against peaceful demonstrators opposing the Draft Omnibus Law on Job Creation yesterday.

“The actions against peaceful demonstrators by forcibly breaking up rallies, arresting and assaulting them were excessive. It cannot be justified”, said Hamid in a press release on Friday July 17.

Based on a chronology complied by Amnesty International Indonesia and several other civil society organisations, the violence took place during peaceful actions held in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung and the South Sulawesi capital of Makassar on Thursday July 16.

According to Hamid, police officers from the Bandung municipal police (Polrestabes) arrested protesters who wanted to join an action by the Social Challenge Alliance (Alarm).

Local police not only carried out arbitrary arrests but also acts of violence and intimidation such as assaulting demonstrators, forcibly breaking up rallies, randomly questioning of people wearing black T-shirts and confiscating materials belonging to protesters.

“These actions occurred at several points in Bandung city, such as Cikapayang Park, on Jl Sulanjana, in front of the Luxtton Hotel and at the Baltos bus stop”, said Hamid.

In Makassar meanwhile, at least 36 university and one high-school student were arrested by Makassar municipal police as they were taking part in a protest action opposing the Omnibus Law. Police also impounded several motorcycles belonging to demonstrators.

“Yet the action proceeded quite peacefully and smoothly, the participants also applied health protocols such as checking body temperatures”, said Hamid.

Hamid explained that peaceful demonstrations represent freedom expression, association and opinion. Demonstrators should not be arrested just because they want to voice their opposition to the Omnibus Law which is widely seen as problematic.

“These rights are fully protected under international human rights laws and the police should protect these rights”, said Hamid.

Hamid admitted that during the current Covid-19 pandemic, everyone is being encouraged to maintain social distancing and apply health protocols during activities outside the home. But this cannot be used as a pretext to violate human rights.

“Covid-19 health protocols cannot be used to deny human rights. The dispersal [of protesters] must be done carefully and only as a last resort. Participants must also be given an opportunity to disband voluntarily first”, he said.

Hamid is urging the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to investigate the alleged violence by police against the demonstrators.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Amnesty Kecam Kekerasan Polisi terhadap Demonstran RUU Cipta Kerja”.]