The Dangers of Human Rights-Compliant Counterterrorism: A Critical Review of the Indonesian Approach
Author(s): Jayson Lamchek
Against the prevailing wisdom that legal frameworks can make the fight against terrorism compatible with human rights, the paper offers an extended pause to draw out the bases for disbelief in the power of constitutional law to tame counterterrorism in Indonesia. It argues that the idea of human rights-compliant counterterrorism partakes of a fantastical quality and involves a great deal of unawareness of counterterrorism as a hegemonic order. The identification of counterterrorism with human rights action is a defining feature of this counterterrorism hegemony. The paper contextualizes this argument in Indonesia. It offers explanations for how Indonesia’s counterterrorism achieved acceptability despite the Constitutional Court having had no role to play in shaping it and despite the counterterrorism legal framework lowering human rights standards. Three characteristics of Indonesian counterterrorism, namely, its focus on Islamist militants, that it is police-led and criminal justice-based, allow it to be presented as consistent with constitutional values. The rhetoric of counterterrorism as fundamentally consistent with human rights helps maintain impunity for extralegal killings and torture of terrorism suspects by police. The paper concludes with an invitation to develop a human rights practice that rejects rather than seeks accommodation with counterterrorism hegemony.