TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - In the name of morality and maintaining good order in their surroundings, a group of residents in Cikupa, Tangerang, Banten, recently acted in a most uncivilized manner. They dragged a pair of unmarried young lovers out of their rented room, undressed them and then paraded them around the village. This practice of taking the law into one's own hands (vigilantism) violates basic human rights, and those doing it should be punished accordingly.
The local community and its leaders did not have any right to pass sentence on the couple. Moreover, under current law, it is absolutely clear this young couple did nothing wrong to warrant such treatment. Before shaming them, locals forced them both to 'admit' to wrongdoings they had not actually committed. Some locals even recorded this vicious, inhumane incident, which happened in mid-November and uploaded the video on social media.
Not many people realized the community actually broke the law as soon as they forcibly entered the couple's rented room. This one act contravened the couple's right to privacy protected under the Basic Human Rights Law. Article 31 of the law states everyone has the fundamental right to be left undisturbed on their premises. This right to privacy may only be overridden by officers of the law arresting a suspect or carrying out a search there.
The Constitution also protects human dignity. Everyone has the right to personal protection, to be respected, have their personal dignity upheld, and to feel safe. Everyone also has the right and freedom from being abused or being subjected to any treatment that diminishes their standing as a human being. Let alone in the case of someone who may not have done anything wrong, the human dignity of even a convicted felon guilty of a crime must also be protected.
The action taken by the Tangerang Local Police Command in arresting some of the perpetrators, including the neighborhood head (RT), was the right one to take. Those arrested were all named as suspects in the case of joint maltreatment of others under Article 170 of the Criminal Code. But the police should also charge, in particular, those who made and distributed the video of the shameful incident. Firmness demonstrated here by law enforcement will be very important in minimizing future occurrences of similar uncivilized incidents.
The symptoms of a dangerous social disorder are now emerging where many are acting as if they are pure and holy, with a penchant for judging others and getting satisfaction from seeing others suffer. These actions are heading towards persecution. Under the Statute of Rome, persecution is defined as an oppression of or taking away the rights of any group on the grounds of their race, religion, culture, or gender. But people now use this term in a wider sense.
A previous similar incident of vigilantism also occurred in Bekasi, West Java, in August. Locals burnt alive an electronics serviceman they suspected of stealing an amplifier from a mosque. Even on social media the frequent total ‘destruction’ of others holding different beliefs is now ongoing, ending up with accosting the people abused in the real world. For instance, a wave of such persecutions occurred when Jakarta was swept by the fevered sentiment of ‘antiblasphemy and anti denigration of clerics’ before the election of the governor this year.
The government needs to urge law enforcers to be firm and to quickly respond to every instance of vigilantism. The rule of law needs to be improved in order to prevent the growth of such crimes. That is why the proposed provisions in the Criminal Code Revisions Bill that contain potential to foster persecution need to immediately be removed. The Bill now introduces the concept of ‘the law prevailing in the community’ as the determinant of whether someone can be charged with a crime.
This phrase of ‘the law prevailing in the community’ is inconsistent with the universal basis of the law that all regulations on crime must be available in written form. No one ought to be convicted of a crime purely on the basis of ‘habitual’ law. Such a regulation would actually foster vigilantism. It is only through consistency of regulations and firm action that such brutal behavior as happened in Cikupa can be kept at bay.
Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine