A HUMAN rights group said Indonesian police have shot dead more than 70 people in an “escalating” crackdown on petty criminals ahead of the 2018 Asian Games that opens Saturday.
Amnesty International (AI) said at least 77 people have been gunned down across the country, nearly half of whom were shot in the games’ host cities of greater Jakarta and South Sumatra.
Many of the killings, AI said, occurred during police operations explicitly devised to prepare the cities for hosting the multisport event scheduled to be held between Aug 18 and Sept 2.
AI Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said the figures reveal a clear pattern of “unnecessary” and “excessive” use of force by the police.
“In the months leading up to the Asian Games, the authorities promised to improve security for all. Instead, we have seen the police shooting and killing dozens of people across the country with almost zero accountability for the deaths,” Usman said in a statement.
“The killings must stop and all deaths must be promptly and effectively investigated,” he said.
Usman said the killings also reflected a constant “veil of impunity” that taints public security institutions.
“The hosting of an international sporting event must not come at the price of abandoning human rights.”
AI pointed out that the killing peaked from July 3 and 12. In the short time frame, 11 people in greater Jakarta and three people in South Sumatra were shot dead by the police during a series of operations.
A further 41 were shot in the legs, while more than 700 of 5,000 people arrested were charged with a criminal offence, the group said.
A spate of violent crimes in the Jakarta has raised public concern and police were using it to justify the killings, AI said.
The crimes, called “begal”, involved criminals who carry sharp weapons or guns and use motorbikes to rob and attack people.
The group said the deaths represent a 64 percent increase in the total number of those killed for committing petty crimes compared to the same period for 2017.
“The police are clearly exercising a ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ policy,” Usman said, adding the government should launch investigations in the killings.
The games will witness a 20 percent increase in participation compared to the Incheon Games four years ago.
Security concerns for the event increased after suicide bombings claimed by Islamic State killed more than 30 people in the country’s second-biggest city of Surabaya in May.