Kanjuruhan: Activists blast court acquittals to officers accused of excessive force that killed 135

Tear gas being used on spectators at Karunjuhan Stadium on Oct. 1, 2022. Photo: Video screengrab
Tear gas being used on spectators at Karunjuhan Stadium on Oct. 1, 2022. Photo: Video screengrab

Rights groups are lambasting the Indonesian judicial system after the Surabaya District Court yesterday acquitted two cops and handed a light sentence to another for their roles in the Kanjuruhan Stadium tragedy, during which 135 people were killed.

The court held sentencing hearings for three cops, namely Adjunct Police Commissioner Hasdarmawan, Adjunct Police Commissioner Bambang Sidik Ahmadi, and Police Commissioner Wahyu Setyo Pranoto. All three were on match security duty on that deadly Oct. 1 day at Kanjuruhan.

The court sentenced Hasdarmawan to 1.5 years in prison for criminal negligence, as he ordered his unit to fire tear gas towards the stands, which triggered a deadly stampede in the stadium.

Wahyu was acquitted of all charges, with the court finding that he did not order anyone to fire tear gas, nor did he have the authority to override Hasdarmawan’s order to his squad.

Bambang, meanwhile, was acquitted even though he ordered his unit to fire tear gas. However, the court found that the wind blew his unit’s tear gas away from the stands, and therefore did not trigger a stampede.

Similarly, earlier this month, the court sentenced a match official to 1.5 years in prison and a security officer at the match to 1 year in prison, which were far lighter than the prosecution’s demands.

Amnesty International lambasted the latest rulings.

“The authorities are once again failing to provide justice to victims of excessive force in Indonesia, despite vows in the aftermath of the disaster to hold those responsible to account. Months after a tragedy that shocked the world only a handful of people have been convicted,” Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said in a press release.

“Amnesty International Indonesia reiterates its calls to launch a prompt, thorough and independent probe into the appalling actions of security forces at the stadium, where tear gas was fired into the crowd triggering a stampede at the exits. The families of victims are understandably distraught at the meagre results of the cases, which have fallen far short. 

“In Indonesia, there is a deeply entrenched and broad pattern of violence and abuse of power by Indonesian security forces. This tragic case should be a chance to right wrongs and change course, not repeat the same old mistakes. Lack of accountability also sends a dangerous message to members of the security forces who may be reassured that they can operate with a free hand and zero consequences.”

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) decried the rulings and said that the trials were designed to conceal the truth in order to shield the authorities from accountability.

“We believe the sentences were far below the expectations of the victims’ families, who want the perpetrators to be given the heaviest punishments possible and for the trials to unveil who are the high level actors behind this tragedy,” Kontras Legal Director Andi Rezaldy said in a written statement published today.

“We saw that the hearings were marred by malicious trial processes,” he added. Kontras previously cited discrepancies in the investigation of the disaster and subsequent trials, such as a lack of transparency regarding the police’s chain of command on Oct. 1.

Malang’s Arema hosted rivals Persebaya from the East Java capital of Surabaya on Oct. 1. A stampede ensued after the final whistle, claiming the lives of 135 people and injuring at least 600. While there was an attempt to place the blame on soccer hooliganism, an independent fact-finding team found that police’s excessive use of tear gas — which is banned by FIFA — was the main cause of the deadly stampede.

Arema fans are holding a candlelight vigil in Malang on Saturday evening in remembrance of the lives lost and as a protest of the court’s failure to bring those responsible to justice.

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