United Development Party Backs Call for Close Watch Over Densus 88

The United Development Party has called for closer scrutiny of National Police counterterrorism unit Densus 88.

“The National Police chief is urged to follow up the demands of several Islamic mass organizations that wanted Densus 88 to be disbanded. Brimob’s [mobile brigade] presence was sufficient enough to maintain public security and order,” Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, chairman of the party known as PPP, said in Jakarta over the weekend.

Lukman said that Densus 88’s presence in the National Police has long been of public concern, especially following allegedly heavy-handed actions.

He said that Densus 88 violated human rights when it shot and killed terrorist suspects during raids.

“The procedure that it took [in handling terrorists] is considered too arbitrary. Islamic mass organizations find Densus 88 troubling,” Lukman said.

Lukman said that in fighting terrorism, Densus 88 often associated terrorism with Islam and therefore created a stigma against Muslims that was hurtful toward and discredited Muslim people.

Previously, several Islamic-based mass organizations had called for the disbandment of Densus 88.

Meanwhile, lawmakers from House of Representatives Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, are planning a working committee to monitor the performance of Densus 88.

“The intention is to accommodate the people’s criticisms relating to the handling of terrorism. ... The working committee will also ask that the counterterrorism action be conducted transparently and accountably,” Al Muzzammil Yusuf, deputy chairman of Commission III, said last week.

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) member said that while he and his colleagues supported the fight against terrorism, he called on the authorities to uphold the presumption of innocence, the national constitution and human rights.

“We certainly support the fight against terrorism. But we don’t want to see Densus 88’s actions become counterproductive and to ignite public anger,” he said.

He added that Densus 88’s handling of terrorist suspects was worrying, with the organization allegedly committing serious human rights violations with wrongful arrests and the killing of innocent people.

Muzzammil accused the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and the National Police headquarters of condoning Densus 88’s actions.

www.thejakartaglobe.com. March 04, 2013