an Indonesian sympathizer of the Islamic State terrorist group was found guilty
of plotting bombings and sentenced to life in prison. The problem is such cases
are not atypical. According to a 2020 outlook report released by a
Singapore-based think-tank, more terror attacks are to be expected in Indonesia
past 20 years, terrorism and religious extremism have become major challenges
for the national security of Indonesia, the world’s most populous
Muslim-majority country. Indonesia has been home to terrorist networks and
training camps connected to al-Qaeda, Islamic State (ISIS) and Jemaah
Islamiyah. The third one is a militant Islamist group that promotes the
establishment of an Islamic state in the region. Last but not least, the US
Commission on International Religious Freedom notes that Indonesian religious
hardliners take advantage of deep connections they have to “the highest levels
four dozen terrorist attacks have been carried out in Indonesia since 2000,
mainly by supporters of ISIS and Jemaah Islamiyah. The perpetrators targeted
police stations, religious institutions and foreign tourists. The most high-profile
attack was the bombings on the island of Bali in 2002, which left 202 people
from 21 countries dead.
In 2010, in
the aftermath of the 2009 Jakarta hotel bombings, Indonesian authorities
established the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT). This government
department is charged with developing programs aimed at preventing terrorism
and coordinating other government departments in this field. But it is Densus
88 – Indonesia’s counterterrorism squad – that has received much media
has carried out multiple raids on military networks, having foiled numerous
terrorist attacks. Perhaps one of the most significant achievements of this
elite unit was disrupting the activities of jihadist cells linked to Jemaah
Islamiyah, with most of its top terrorists being arrested or killed. Most of
the squad’s success is due to effective intelligence gathering and analysis as
well as high-level training of snipers. Now, Densus 88 is considered one of the
world’s best counterterrorism organizations.
there is the flip side to this success story. The revisions to the
counterterrorism law passed by Indonesia’s House of Representatives in 2018
sparked fears that freedom of expression could be restricted. For example, Amnesty
International voiced concerns about the increasing role of the military in
counterterrorism operations. Human Rights Watch sent a letter to President Joko
Widodo, saying that the amended law contained an overly broad and ambiguous
definition of terrorism. Also, HRW was worried about the extended detention
period of terrorism suspects without charge, to up to 21 days.
How to deal
with overseas fighters?
problem is the repatriation of Indonesians fighting overseas. Last month, the
government announced it was planning to bring home 660 fighters from Syria,
Afghanistan and Turkey. This is quite a challenging task since the authorities
fear that the repatriation may have a negative social impact and affect
tourism. Let’s take a look at how the European Union tackles this issue.
Sebastian Chihaia, security and defence expert with the think-tank Strategikon,
shared the European experience in this field.
we can observe a reluctance among the EU countries to repatriate their citizens
who became ISIS foreign fighters. This stems from a dilemma decision-makers
face: on one hand, the public opinion is naturally against taking the ISIS
foreign fighters back given the potential threat they pose; on the other hand,
repatriating and prosecuting foreign fighters, and on longer term keeping them
under watch coupled with investing in deradicalisation programs seems to be an
effective course of action,” Chihaia told this writer.
alternative measures have been supported such as withdrawing the citizenship of
the foreign fighters or supporting the idea of prosecuting and convicting them
in Iraq, for instance. The effect of these strategies on the longer term is far
from the best. The US has also voiced support for repatriation followed by
prosecution of the foreign fighters as the most efficient measure from a
counterterrorism point of view,” the expert added.
Focus on Prevention Needed
Indonesia’s focus on harsh counterterrorism measures can be effective only in
the short term. To root out radicalization, a more comprehensive and socially
oriented approach should be taken. Once again, it is worth investigating the
European experience. Commenting for this article, Dr Claudio Matera, assistant
professor at the University of Twente in Enschede, Netherlands, highlighted a
multifaceted nature of the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
immediate means of cooperation and response to the threats of international
terrorism were put into place after the terrorist attacks in New York, the EU
adopted a comprehensive strategy on countering terrorism at the end of 2005.
The EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy is built upon four pillars: the prevention of
terrorist attacks, the protection of citizens and infrastructures, the
prosecution of terrorist organizations and their members and, finally, a common
response in the event of a terrorist attack,” Matera said.
noted that the creation of an internal strategy was coupled with external
action: “The EU promotes the fight against terrorism at the global level by
cooperating directly with third countries and international organizations in a
plurality of ways: by promoting anti money-laundering standards and norms, by
training police and military officials of partner countries, and by promoting
the adoption of international norms against terrorism and terrorist
organizations in international fora.”
EU and Indonesia have the potential for closer cooperation on security matters.
In November, the fourth session of the European Union-Indonesia Political
Dialogue was held in Brussels. The parties discussed the development of closer
relations in various areas, including counterterrorism. If Indonesia learns
more from the European experience, there is a greater chance that it will stake
more on deradicalization and prevention measures, something that will certainly
have a longer-term impact.
Headline: Strengths, weaknesses of
Source: The Asia Times