Indonesian judge objects to preventive detention law

Supreme Court judge says proposed law is a violation of human rights principles

A senior judge in Indonesia has urged Parliament not to push through a preventive detention law that will allow the police to hold terrorist suspects for up to six months.

The move, which is among sweeping changes to the Anti-Terrorism Bill being proposed in the wake of the Jan 14 attack in Jakarta, is "a violation of human rights principles", said Supreme Court Justice Salman Luthan on Thursday.

He added that passing the law would amount to stating that "national security is above human rights", and it also violates the principles of law in Indonesia.

The judge was addressing a parliamentary commission reviewing the proposed legislative changes to the Bill, enacted in 2003 after the Bali bombings a year earlier by Jemaah Islamiah militants.

Revisions to the Bill include giving the authorities powers to revoke the citizenship of Indonesians who join groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), conduct wiretaps without a court order and rope in the military for counter-terrorism operations.

The Straits Times understands that the latest changes were proposed within weeks of the attack on the capital in January by militants from a local terror cell loyal to ISIS.

Deliberations over the Bill, however, have taken longer than expected.

This was after human rights groups voiced concerns over the pre-emptive measures, particularly after the death of a suspect under suspicious circumstances while in police custody in March.

There are no preventive detention laws in Indonesia, and the police are hoping that the new Bill will allow them to hold extremists linked to terror plots for up to six months as a preventive measure.

But experts said the proposal, which rights groups call the "Guantanamo Bill" in reference to the American detention facility in Cuba, has emerged as the Achilles' heel of the latest revisions.

Indonesia has a Muslim-majority population and while it has been successful in dealing with local extremists after the Bali bombings, a rise in domestic terror incidents has led to calls for the immediate enactment of the revised Bill.

Besides the Supreme Court, the House committee has also heard the views of representatives from various ministries and security agencies, as well as reformed terrorists, as part of its deliberations.

It remains unclear when the committee will decide on the proposed changes to the Bill.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2016, with the headline 'Indonesian judge objects to preventive detention law'. Print Edition | Subscribe