Indonesia: Investigate police’s excessive use of force against protesters in Marosi, East Nusa Tenggara

Amnesty International calls on the Indonesian authorities to conduct a prompt,
independent, impartial and effective investigation into alleged use of excessive force by
the police leading to the death of one man and injuries to at least one teenager in Marosi
coastal area, West Sumba District, East Nusa Tenggara Province. The investigation should
be carried out by a body independent of the police and the findings must be made public.
Those who are suspected of criminal responsibility, including those with command
responsibility, must be brought to justice in fair trials not subject to the death penalty and
victims granted adequate reparations.

In the morning of 25 April, around a hundred local residents from Patiala village gathered
near the Marosi coastal area to protest a land measurement process by the National Land
Agency (BPN) and a hotel management company. The land measurement by the BPN was
seen by the local villagers as an indication that the hotel would occupy the disputed land.
At least 100 police officers and some military soldiers were present at the protest. Before
the protest began, the security forces collected machetes from the protesters, which are
tools that they carry in their everyday activities.

Around 3.00pm some police officers forcefully took a mobile phone from a protester that
was being used to record the land measurement process. Agitated by the police action,
several villagers tried to prevent the police to take another protesters’ mobile phone. The
police responded by unnecessarily opening fire without warning and then releasing tear
gas to disperse the crowd. One of the teenage protesters suffered gunshot wounds in his
legs. Another victim, Poro Duka, aged 40, was dead on the spot after being shot in his
stomach. The security forces brought Poro Duka body to a local hospital with police car.

The Spokesperson of National Police Headquarters in Jakarta issued a statement on 3 May
stating the police had complied with existing police regulations and that police used only
rubber and blank bullets. However, the autopsy held by local hospital that was attended by
the victims’ family found a bullet inside Poro Duka stomach. The Division of Profession
and Security (Propam), an internal oversight police unit, at the East Nusa Tenggara
Regional Police Force (Polda) said that they are still conducting an internal investigation.

While Amnesty International acknowledges the complex environment law enforcement
officials often find themselves in when carrying out their duty they must ensure full  respect for the right to life, liberty and security of all persons, including those suspected of crime.

Under international law and standards, Indonesia is legally obliged to respect and protect
everyone’s right to life at all times. Law enforcement officials may use force only when
strictly necessary and to the extent required to carry out a legitimate law enforcement
objective; they must not use firearms except in self-defence or defence of others against
the imminent threat of death or serious injury or to prevent a particularly serious crime
involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and only when
less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. Intentional lethal use of
firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable to protect life.

The use of force and firearms directly impacts on the right to life, which is protected
under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia
is obliged to comply with a state party. The use of force is therefore subject to strict
human rights safeguards as set out in the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement
Officials (1979) and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law
Enforcement Officials (1990). The use of force by law enforcement officials in Indonesia
is further regulated by the Indonesian Chief of Police Regulation on the Use of Force in
Police Action (No. 1/2009).

Amnesty International believes that the Marosi case is not an isolated incident but speaks
to a culture of impunity that continues to exist in Indonesia. Many previous investigations
into human rights violations committed by the security forces, including unlawful killings,
the use of unnecessary and excessive force, and torture and other ill-treatment, have been
unduly delayed, dropped, or their findings buried, resulting in impunity for perpetrators
and leaving victims and their families without access to truth, justice and reparations.
The government must also put an end to the climate of impunity for perpetrators of such

Amnesty International is also concerned that police accountability in Indonesia has been
hampered by the lack of an independent, effective, and impartial oversight mechanism to
investigate human rights violations committed by the security forces and where
appropriate to take forward its findings for prosecution. Criminal investigations into human
rights violations by the police are rare in Indonesia and attempts to hold those responsible
to account, mostly through internal disciplinary mechanisms, leave many victims without
access to justice and reparation.