Magazine article New Internationalist

Copy-Cat War on Drugs

Magazine article New Internationalist

Copy-Cat War on Drugs

Article excerpt

President Joko Widodo has stopped executing foreigners for drug smuggling - after two rounds in 2015 and 2016 - but that doesn't mean that his war on drugs is over. Instead, the battlefield is shifting from the execution chambers to the streets. Widodo has empowered the National Narcotics Bureau and the Police to use force against drug traders, with little oversight.

The President seems drugs obsessed - he once called drugs the 'Number 1 problem' facing Indonesia, despite evidence showing that the figures he cited, such as 4.5 million addicts, were grossly overestimated.

He has also ignored the growing global consensus that heavy-handed tactics have failed to stop both drug usage and smuggling globally, and that a more effective approach is to look at drugs as a public health issue. To make matters worse, Indonesia has cut funding for rehabilitation.

Yet the policy has proved popular nationally. 'The government can resume execution - at any time - as a populist tool to show the public that they are tough on crime,' says Ricky Gunawan, a human-rights lawyer with the Jakarta-based LBH Masyarakat (Community Legal Aid Institute). …

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