Amending the Terrorism Law, safeguarding the Republic

The recent consecutive acts of terrorism in several regions across the country have truly shattered and torn the collective emotion of the nation. We were all caught unaware. Within hours of the first bombing, Indonesia bitterly returned to the global spotlight with yet another terrorist attack that was reportedly connected to the Islamic State (IS) network.

This bloody tragedy inearly May seemingly emphasizes the fact that the state is in a state ofemergency concerning terrorism. The state must never lose and falter in the face of terrorists who desire for the country to be in chaos and the nation to be gripped by fear. The state must be present and provide safety and protection for its citizens, as well as reassert its ownexistence.

Cracking down on terrorism, which for some time has overshadowed Indonesia, is not the sole realm of the police. It is time that all parties relinquish their sectoral and institutional egos for the sake of larger interests. Everyone should come to an agreement that terrorism is a real threat in the midst of our civic life—now and in times to come. Thus we all bear the same responsibility: to safeguard the Republic against the menace of terrorism.

Law enforcement against crimes of terror should also be consistent. The primary hurdle here lies in the revision of Law No. 15/2003 on the Eradication of Criminal Acts of Terrorism, which to this moment has not yet reached the peak of deliberation between Parliament and the Government. The revision of the Anti-Terrorism Law needs to be passed by the House without delay in order to provide a more proactive and anticipative legal umbrella for the eradication of terrorism. Why is the revision so vital? This legal umbrella can answer immediate demands for strengthening our constitutional basis in order to realize stable national security. The state cannot arbitrarily hand over issues of national security to the military and those of public order to the police. The revision of the Anti-Terrorism Law must answer how the state plays an active role in protecting its citizens.

The revision of the Anti-Terrorism Law is under great pressure to be finalized, to prevent the reoccurrence of fatal suicide bombings. Even President Joko Widodo, directing the nation after the Surabaya bombings, appealed to the House of Representatives and the relevant ministries to promptly finalize the revision, as it has already been deliberated for two years without resolution. The new law is needed by law enforcement to act decisively in preventing and responding to acts of terrorism. If the revision is still not finalized by June, the President will be squaring off to release a Government Regulation in Lieu of Law.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bambang Soesatyo, has also firmly expressed his commitment in ensuring that the revision of the Anti-Terrorism Law will be completed in the new parliamentary session—at the latest by early June. The House Special Committee on the revision of the Anti-Terrorism Law is also prepared to continue deliberating with the government. The point of concern here is that discussion on the law must first achieve consensus within the government itself, namely the ministries and institutions such as the police and military.

Within the House Special Committee itself, discussion concerning the revision has been proceeding dynamically. Several crucial points entail heated debate: the first significant issue concerns defining a criminal act of terrorism; the second is the involvement of the military; the third is the procedure in criminal acts of terrorism; the fourth concerns supervision on endeavors to eradicate terorrism; the fifth is the institutional strengthening of the National Body for Combating Terrorism; the sixth and final issue concerns victim protection. In principle, all political parties within the House Special Committee on the revision of the Anti-Terrorism Law has reached consensus in responding to these crucial points.

The dynamics in discussing military involvement has admittedly taken up much time in the meetings between the House Special Committee and the government. However, during the last Committee meeting on April 18, 2018, all parties stated that they were “clear” and had reached consensus: military involvement in combating acts of terrorism is both necessary and required. The revision has so far accommodated a number of points that are needed by law enforcement in order for them to pursue a more preventive course of action, as opposed to a merely reactive one. This includes strengthening the role of the State Intelligence Agency as the coordinator for state intelligence in combating terrorism.

On the one hand, the government is still internally debating one specific point, namely the definition of a criminal act of terrorism. The government, in this case the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, does not yet see eye to eye with the police. The government proposes that “the definition of terrorism encompasses every action that deliberately uses force or threat of force which creates an atmosphere of terror or widespread fear, causes mass casualties, or inflicts damage and destruction on vital strategic objects, the environment, public facilities, or international facilities.”


Throughout deliberations, the majority of the ten political parties in Parliament tends to approve the proposal that a criminal act of terrorism also be defined based on motives of politics or ideology, as well as threats to national security. However, the House and the government still needs to discuss the positioning of this added phrasing. There are two developing options: one places the added phrase “motives of politics, ideology, and/or threats to national security” in the main body of the revision as part of the definition of terrorism; the second option places it in the general elucidation section, outside of the law proper.


The point here is that defining terrorism should become the point of departure for combating terrorism. From this definition, law enforcement agents can in the future effectively differentiate whether or not someone is a terrorist. Therefore, it is imperative that the definition of terrorism be made as detailed, holistic, and lucid as possible. The aforementioned added phrasing is being considered purely to prevent law enforcement from too easily labeling someone as a terrorist. Meanwhile, the government perceives this added phrasing as unnecessary. We hope that ultimately, both parliament and government can achieve consensus without controvery.


The revision of the Anti-Terrorism Law must accommodate the idea of “preventive justice” that focuses on strengthening the authority of the state through the anticipative action of law enforcement agents. The original Law No. 15/2003 does not touch the subject of detection and early prevention on acts of terrorism. Law enforcement could only act in response to an actual event. Preventive action should be made a cornerstone for law enforcement. This includes detecting news websites or social media accounts that have actively been used by terrorist networks to communicate. An example of this is the Ministry of Communication and Informatics’ recent move to block “Telegram” for possessing contents of terrorism in Indonesia. For this reason, surveillance on threats of terrorist acts is not merely aimed at physical targets (the suspected terrorists), but should also include early detection on digital media(specifically social media) that have hitherto been used as a tool of radical propaganda for terrorist groups.


Once this new law has been finalized between the House and the government, it is hoped that we will possess a stronger legal umbrella for responding to criminal acts of terrorism, one that is in-line with other regulations and in fact supports and complements them. This legal umbrella will provide law enforcement with a constitutional foundation for proactive and anticipative action. Coordination between agencies (police, military, and the National Body for Combating Terrorism) will become more concrete in accordance with each of their primary functions.


On a final note, terrorism in Indonesia has become a latent danger and threatens the integrity of the Republic. We must reaffirm our nation’s unity and cohesion, uphold the ambitions of our founding fathers that Indonesia was built and struggled for based on the principle of “Unity in Diversity,” Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. We must not let the Republic fall because of terrorist ideologies! For this reason, a massive and public deradicalization movement must be launched, all the way to the living rooms. As representatives of the public, members of Parliament must also be proactive in disseminating and campaigning deradicalization in each of their electoral districts.