Barely two weeks after the terrorist attacks in Surabaya (East Java) and Pekanbaru (Riau) Indonesian parliament unanimously approved a new anti-terrorism law. It is actually a revision of Indonesia's 2003 Antiterrorism Law (which was regarded too weak to combat - and thwart - terrorist activities efficiently). The new bill was passed during a plenary session on Friday (25/05). The bill took more than two years of deliberation. However, the recent attacks significantly sped up the process.
Between 13-16 May 2018 several attacks, including a new phenomenon called the "family suicide attack" (in which terrorist suicide bombers also use their children), more than 30 people died in terrorist attacks in Surabaya, Sidoarjo and Pekanbaru.
These events put additional pressure on existing laws in Indonesia. Prior to the implementation, law enforcers could only arrest suspected terrorists once they had performed their act. The revised law will now allow law enforcers to preemptively detain suspects for a longer period and prosecute those who join - or recruit for - militant groups.
The revised law also expands the definition of "terrorism". The definition had actually been one of the key obstacles to the implementation of the bill as not all fractions agreed on the exact definition. The new definition is as follows:
"terrorism refers to acts of violence or threats that give rise to an atmosphere of terror or widespread fear, which can lead to mass casualties, and/or cause damage or destruction to strategic vital objects, the environment, public facilities or international facilities, with motives related to ideology, politics, or security disorder"
Critics, however, argue that this definition is too vague and should therefore not be rushed into law. Some claim the new law could actually be used to curtail civil liberties.
Meanwhile, law enforcers will now have more power through the new law as it lengthens detention periods up to 14 days (without needing any charges) and up to 200 days (with official charges).
Another (controversial) point is that through the revised law the Indonesian military becomes involved in counter-terrorism activities. Previously, this was the task of police. As there exists some rivalry in Indonesia between the police and army, not everyone is happy to see the army becoming involved in this field.
By adding the term "security disorder" in the new definition of terrorism, it paves the way for military involvement. The passing of the revised law coincides with the establishment of the Indonesian army's Joint Special Operations Command (in Indonesian: Komando Operasi Khusus Gabungan, or Koopsusgab), which will take charge of the military's involvement in Indonesia's war on terror. Critics are concerned seeing an expanded role for the army in society because of memories of the military Suharto regime. In the era of Reformation (after 1998) many successful efforts were made to reduce the role of the army in Indonesian politics and society.
The new law also includes numerous provisions on terrorism prevention measures, including a legal basis to charge Islamic State (IS) militants returning to Indonesia. It is believed that the Indonesian IS militant returnees incite and inspire other radicals to conduct terrorist attacks in the Archipelago.