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Drugs and policy in Indonesia

Elisabeth Kramer
University of Sydney

Elisabeth Kramer
University of Sydney

Sylvia Tidey
University of Amsterdam
In December 2014, Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, declared that the country was in the midst of a ‘drug emergency’ that was responsible for up to 50 deaths per day. This figure was subsequently used to justify the Indonesian government’s justification for refusing clemency to convicted drug smugglers, several of whom were executed in Indonesia during 2015, as well as a raft of drug policy reforms. In the light of the experiences and perceived failures of other countries that have instituted a ‘war on drugs’ (MacCoun and Reuter, 2001), this panel interrogates some of the paradoxes and nuances of the on-going anti-drug project in Indonesia, particularly taking into account the implications for human welfare.

The spotlight that government statements have shone on drug usage and addiction in Indonesia heralded not only the deaths of smugglers, but also a stated commitment to ‘evidence-based’ policies, including a new focus on rehabilitation for drug users and methadone trials instead of incarceration. However, as this panel will underscore, the government’s efforts have raised many questions for a range of stakeholders including public health experts, human rights activists and drug users themselves. This interdisciplinary panel, drawing from public health, anthropology and political science approaches, will explore the not just the contradictions of government policy, but also the lived experiences of drug users and those who are concerned that the government’s position threatens basic human rights.


Paper 1: Drugs and policy in Indonesia: Is anyone listening to academics?

Elisabeth Kramer
University of Sydney

In June 2015, a number of prominent academics signed an open letter to the Indonesian government in The Lancet, arguing that an inaccurate dataset was consistently being quoted by the government not only to justify its harsh punishment of drug traffickers, but also the vast increase in the budget of the National Narcotics Board. This paper traces the rationale behind this particular strategy by academics, the outcome, and the intricacies surrounding such a public and international criticism of the Indonesian government. As the story unfolds, it is evident that there are tensions not only between the government and academics, but within the academic community itself, further complicating the ability of academics to influence government policy and promote the use of evidence-based drug-interventions in Indonesia.


Paper 2: HIV risk among women who inject drugs in Indonesia

Claudia Stoicescu
University of Oxford

Women who inject drugs in Indonesia remain a neglected group in both research and the national HIV response. Perempuan Bersuara, a study conducted by Oxford University in collaboration with Atma Jaya University and the Indonesian Drug Users Network, investigates the prevalence of sexual and injecting risk and its correlates in Indonesia’s largest sample of female drug injectors. This presentation explores the relevance between HIV vulnerability and multilevel factors within social, structural and policy risk environments that encompass access to health services, exposure to violence from intimate partners and the police, and peer social support.


Paper 3: The drug user as dangerous patient

Lex Kuiper
University of Amsterdam

As drug addiction proliferates in Indonesia, two seemingly incompatible discourses on drugs, drug users, and the nation are circulating. A spectre of danger, what I call addiction-as-disaster, is palpable in Indonesia’s attempts to ‘save the Indonesian people from the drug problem.’ But while drug offenders are imprisoned and executions of drug traffickers have increased drastically, a notion of addiction-as-disease has been on the rise. In this paper I take as a starting point the Indonesian narcotics laws and the speeches of the chief of the National Narcotics Board and then-vice president Boediono at the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in order to show how drug users are attributed with the status of ‘dangerous patients’ whose affliction on the one hand endangers the nation and on the other requires care and treatment. When these discourses come together receiving treatment becomes a right, but at the same time showing a willingness to heal becomes a duty.


Paper 4: The legal context of illegal drugs in Indonesia

Ajeng Larasati
University of Essex

Indonesia has initiated their drug war when they enacted two laws on psychotropic drugs and narcotics in 1997. As drug crimes became a transnational issue, and is claimed as an extraordinary crime, Indonesian then passed a rather new more punitive law, the Law No. 35/2009. Laws on drug-related activities are even harsher as the criminal sanctions for drug offences become more severe. It introduced minimum sentences for most drug crimes, as well as an opportunity for drug users to be diverted from imprisonment into drug treatment . This presentation will look at how the current Indonesian drug laws affecting the protection of human rights, mainly the right to health, the right to life, and the right to fair trial. It will look at the impact of the laws on access to drug rehabilitation centres, the availability and quality of treatments on such centres, and the prevalence of drug use across the country. It will examine whether the application of capital punishment for drug offences is in accordance with international human rights law. Lastly, this presentation will also look at the fulfilment of one’s right to fair trial, such as the habeas corpus and access to legal representation, as well as examining the corrupted legal system in Indonesia.