Singgih Wiryono, Jakarta – Amnesty International Executive Director Usman Hamid says that the statements by Medan Mayor Bobby Nasution supporting begal (violent robbers) being shot dead reminds him of those made by former Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte who pursued a shoot to kill policy in his war against drugs.
According to Hamid, Duterte's policies were not actually focused on eliminating narcotics, but in fact targeted the poor in the Philippines.
"I think that if this is allowed to happen, it could become a war against the poor. Bobby's statements as the mayor remind me of a mayor in the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte (who was the mayor of Davao in 2001-2019), who at the time took advantage of the narcotics problem to shoot people dead in the streets", said Hamid during a Kompas TV Dua Arah chat show on Saturday July 22.
"And at that time hundreds of thousands of poor Filipinos became the victims", he added.
According to official figures, as many as 6,248 people were killed between 2016 and 2022, although human rights groups allege that tens of thousands of people could have been killed.
Moreover many perpetrators of robbery, said Hamid, involve children who perhaps do not have criminal motives when they commit robberies. "There are many issues that have to be looked at, moreover in a great many of these begal cases children are the perpetrators", he said.
"[And] the reasons can be varied, it can be social inequality, it can be due to psychological development, the family and social environment. So there are many reasons which I think must be paid attention to", said Hamid.
Hamid also said that he is concerned that the gross human rights violations that occurred during the 1982-1985 mysterious shootings (Petrus) will be repeated as a consequence of the policy. "Yes (I'm concerned there will be a repeat of Petrus)", he said.
Meanwhile the Petrus affair had a bias of interest because the shootings targeted people who were deemed to be preman (thugs, petty criminals).
"The preman category is very loose, so there was a great deal of abuse in the field, who knows if there were officials seeking a [better] position or promotion by executing someone", said Hamid.
Hamid is concerned that if such executions become commonplace there will be many incidents like Petrus because people are deemed to be robbers.
"Yet it is not certain that the person is guilty (not the perpetrator of begal), as in the legal saying 'it's better to let one guilty person go free than to punish an innocent person'", he said.
Earlier, Bobby Nasution vented his rage against violent robberies that often take place in Medan. He asked law enforcement officials to take firm action. And if necessary, said President Widodo's son-in-law, they should be shot dead.
"I hope that the police will be more firm in acting against perpetrators in the field, even if they have to be shot dead", wrote Nasution on his private Instagram account on Friday July 7.
Following these instructions, on Sunday July 9 police shot dead a robber in Medan city because they tried to resist arrest. Nasution even expressed his appreciation.
"We really appreciate this, because begal and perpetrators of crimes have no place in Medan city because they seriously disturb public order and security", said Nasution on Monday July 10.
The mysterious shootings known as Petrus (penembakan misterius) involved the extrajudicial execution of alleged criminals without trial between 1983 and 1985, which then president Suharto said in his biography was "shock therapy" that he himself condoned. Almost every day, corpses with gunshot wounds were found in streets, rivers, forests or open spaces for the public to see during the anti-crime drive. The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) estimates the operation claimed between 6,000 and 8,000 lives.
[Abridged translation by James Balowski based on two articles by Kompas.com. The original title of the lead article was "Soal Tembak Mati Begal di Medan, Usman Hamid: Pernyataan Bobby Ingatkan Saya dengan Dutert".]