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Jakarta Post

COVID-19: Rights commission urges police not to detain people holding mass gatherings

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, March 26, 2020   /   04:58 pm
COVID-19: Rights commission urges police not to detain people holding mass gatherings Police ask patrons at a roadside stall in Blitar regency, East Java to return home on Tuesday. National Police chief Idham Azis recently issued an edict forbidding mass gatherings as part of an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. (JP/Asip Hasani)

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has called on the National Police not to detain people who insist on holding mass gatherings after being warned against doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Komnas HAM commissioner Choirul Anam said the commission initially supported the police’s move on maintaining public order during the pandemic, adding that banning mass gatherings for the sake of public health was also stipulated in the Siracusa principles on the limitation of human rights.

However, he said placing wrongdoers in jail was not the right decision.

“Placing violators in jail will not improve public health. Thus, I suggest the police make them perform community service related to public health improvement instead, so the public will also benefit from the sanctions,” Choirul told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. “For example, the police could ask the violators to spray disinfectant in public facilities, while still paying attention to [the violators'] health and safety."

His comment comes in the wake of the National Police's announcement that police would press charges against people who continued to hold mass gatherings after being warned against doing so.

National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. M. Iqbal said people who continued to gather in large numbers could be imprisoned for up to 16 months or fined up to Rp 900,000 (US$56). Those charges, he said, were stipulated in articles 212, 216 and 218 of the Criminal Code.


Choirul also said imprisoning violators would cram more people into jails and detention facilities, which would accelerate the spread of the disease, and that fining violators was a better option than detaining them.

“Other countries have also imposed fines on those who hold gatherings during the pandemic, so I think the police should implement that,” Choirul said.

Previously, a coalition of 11 civil society groups, including Amnesty International Indonesia, the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute and Transparency International Indonesia, questioned the police’s move to press criminal charges against people who still conducted mass gatherings even though the government has yet to formally declare a lockdown in the country.

“The central government rejected calls for a lockdown, but the call for people to stay at home has become coercive. This is evident from the use of police force to disband gatherings and the announcement that those who break the [gathering] prohibition could be prosecuted,” it said in a statement.

As of Thursday, Indonesia had reported 893 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 78 deaths. (glh)


If you want to help in the fight against COVID-19, we have compiled an up-to-date list of community initiatives designed to aid medical workers and low-income people in this article. Link: [UPDATED] Anti-COVID-19 initiatives: Helping Indonesia fight the outbreak