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Indonesia: Crime and Political Offenses
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > The Criminal Justice System > Crime and Political Offenses


Like many countries, Indonesia experienced rising crime as a by-product of increased urbanization and the social and economic dislocations associated with national development. The scope of the crime problem was difficult to gauge, but conditions such as large numbers of unemployed or underemployed in the nation's cities, lack of sufficient jobs for high school and university graduates, and a breakdown in traditional systems of social control were often cited as responsible for the increase in crime. During the 1980s, the government sometimes resorted to extrajudicial means to control a perceived increase in crime, especially in urban areas. The government's clandestine "Petrus" operation in Java in the early 1980s is the best known. Specifically approved by Suharto and directed by the army's special forces, the Petrus campaign was directed at known criminals involved in robbery, rape, murder, and other violence. Public opinion approved of the operation, which was characterized by collection of detailed intelligence on targeted criminals and condoning of nighttime shootings. Public reports lacked details, but few if any innocent bystanders were killed by Petrus. It was thought that a similar operation was conducted against suspected criminals and radical separatists in Aceh in early 1991, but the government refused comment on the operation. By the early 1990s, the actual number of crimes increased only moderately from year to year. Both the authorities and the public, however, were concerned about their increasingly violent nature.

Under Indonesian law, certain categories of crime were handled under special statutes outside the penal code. Offenses such as bribery, the assessment of illegal "levies," and the diversion of public funds for private use by business figures or officials formed a special class of crime usually handled under a 1955 statute on economic crimes and a 1971 statute on corruption. Political offenses and acts that Indonesian authorities regarded as threats to national security were usually prosecuted under Presidential Decree Number 11 of 1963 concerning the eradication of subversive activities. Promulgated as a statute in 1969, it granted far-reaching authority in dealing with almost any act that did not conform to government policy and carried a maximum penalty of death.

The special statutes also contained special procedures that differed in important respects from those in the Criminal Procedures Code. Thus, for example, while the code stated that a suspect could only be held a maximum of 120 days before being brought to trial, the subversion law allowed suspects to be held up to one year.

The most prominent use of the special procedures regarding political offenses involved Kopkamtib's mass arrests and detention of some 200,000 persons in connection with the 1965 coup attempt, most of whom were never charged or tried. These prisoners were classified as group A, B, or C, according to the government's perception of how deeply they had been involved in the events of 1965 or in any of the banned organizations, including the PKI. The last 30,000 of those persons still not brought to trial were released between December 1977 and December 1979. Some PKI members were sentenced to death in the mid-1960s and remained in prison for years while their cases went through the appeals process. Several of these prisoners were executed as late as 1990. Only a handful of those convicted in connection with the coup were still in custody in 1992, although some 36,000 were still barred from voting, and 1.4 million former PKI members were closely monitored by Kopkamtib's successor organization, Bakorstanas.

Data as of November 1992

Last Updated: November 1992

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Indonesia was first published in 1993. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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