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Indonesia: Regulation to Be Reviewed Following Prison Riot

(July 18, 2013) On July 13, 2013, Indonesia’s government announced a plan to review a 2012 regulation thought to have set off a riot at Tanjung Gusta prison, in Medan, North Sumatra, two days before. Five people, including two guards, were killed in the uprising, a fire was apparently deliberately set, and 212 prisoners escaped from the maximum security prison. Security forces restored calm and control to the prison on July 12. (Ina Parlina & Apriadi Gunawan, Govt Caves in to Prisoners’ Demand, THE JAKARTA POST (July 14, 2013); Security Forces Regain Control of Indonesia Prison After Riot That Killed Five People, THE HINDU (July 12, 2013).)

According to Amir Syamsuddin, the Law and Human Rights Minister, prison inmates with whom he met after the riot expressed dissatisfaction with the regulation in question. The regulation had imposed stricter standards than had previously existed for persons convicted of corruption, drug, or terrorism crimes who sought remission of their sentences. (Parlina & Gunawan, supra; Peraturan Pemerintah Republik Indonesia Nomor 99 Tahun 2012, Tentang Perubahan Kedua atas Peraturan Pemerintah Nomor 32, Tahun 1999, Tentang Syarat dan Tata Cara Pelaksanaan Hak Warga Binaan Pemasyrakatan [Government Regulation No. 99, 2012, Concerning the Second Amendment of Government Regulation No. 32, 1999, on Conditions and Procedures for Implementation of the Rights of Prisoners], Ministry of the Interior website.)

The government will undertake a review of the causes for the rioting to determine whether it was spontaneous or planned and whether the regulation was a precipitating factor. Other possible sources of discontent, such as blackouts and water stoppages, will also be considered. (Parlina & Gunawan, supra.)

Approximately 65% of the inmates at Tanjung Gusta, about 1,700 people, were convicted of drug-related crimes and could have been concerned that they would no longer be eligible for sentence remissions. The government noted that the 2012 regulation applies only to drug dealers, not to all those imprisoned for drug-related offenses. (Id.)

Also on July 13, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono requested that additional regulations to support the 2012 remission policy be drawn up, to avoid any confusion on the provisions. (Id.)

Yusril Ihza Mahendra, an attorney and a former Law and Human Rights Minister, has for some time expressed concern about the regulation and has challenged it in the Supreme Court. He argues that it contradicts the 1995 Corrections Law and the 1999 Human Rights Law. (Id.; Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 12 Tahun 1995 Tentang Pemasyarakatan [Law No. 12, 1995, Concerning Corrections], Indonesian House of Representatives website [click on the year 1995 and select Law No. 12]; Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 39 Tahun 1999 Tentang Hak Asasi Manusia [Law No. 39, 1999, Concerning Human Rights], Ministry of Health website, English translation available at Harvard School of Public Health website.)

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto stated that prison guards around the country have been warned to be on alert for possible additional incidents, in part because the prisons nation-wide are at 150% of planned capacity. Following a Cabinet meeting on July 13, he added that “[t]he President has also instructed extra money should be allocated if the Rp 1 trillion [US$100 million] earmarked for the establishment of new penitentiaries since 2010 is not enough.” (Parlina & Gunawan, supra.)