Special camp for terror convicts nixed

Special camp for terror convicts nixed
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

President Susilo Bambang Yu-dhoyono has requested the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) review its decision to transfer dozens of hard-core terrorism convicts to a special prison resembling the controversial US-operated Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

During a visit to the BNPT's counterterrorism training facilities at the International Peace and Security Center (IPSC) in Sentul, West Java, on Monday, Yudhoyono was briefed by the agency's chairman, Ansyaad Mbai, regarding progress on the development of the detention camp.

However, to the surprise of many, Yudhoyono was uncomfortable with the agency's plan.

"It [the camp] should not be located here. We should discuss this issue again while I still have time," said Yudhoyono, who is due to leave office on Oct. 20.

Yudhoyono told Ansyaad that while he agreed in principle to the establishment of a special detention camp for terrorists, he felt the proposed location was unsuitable for a Guantanamo-style facility.

"It must not be like Guantanamo; that would go against human rights principles. We should move it somewhere else," he said. "This area is for training and education. Also, if convicts escape from the camp, it would be dangerous for people in the surrounding areas."

The IPSC compound, which houses the BNPT camp, is closely guarded by the military, as firearms and explosives are stored there.

Since late July, the BNPT has started transferring some so-called "hard-core terrorists" into the camp as part of a deradicalization programme, and as a preventive measure against any efforts by the convicts to recruit non-terror inmates into their ranks.

The BNPT camp has 48 cells that can accommodate 144 convicts, according to Ansyaad.

The agency has teamed up with the Law and Human Rights Ministry to develop the camp via a recently signed memorandum of understanding (MoU).

According to the ministry, around 280 terror convicts are locked up in 27 prisons nationwide.

Responding to Yudhoyono's opposition, Ansyaad maintained that the detention camp was necessary for the success of the deradicalization programme.

He said that once the terrorism convicts were housed in the facility, they would be subject to deradicalization programs to prepare them for reintegration back into their communities.

"We cannot run these [deradicalization programs] in penitentiaries, as there have been cases in which guardss have been persuaded to support the terrorists," Ansyaad said.

Yudhoyono said he did not oppose the deradicalization programme being conducted at the camp, as long as the convicts were not detained there.

"The MoU needs to be clarified. I agree with the deradicalization programme, but don't turn this facility into a detention camp."

National Police chief Gen. Sutarman supported Yudhoyono's argument, saying that the convicts' families and followers who visited the camp could pose a threat to the surrounding facilities.

"We're afraid that visitors may wander around the compound, which is supposed to be a restricted area," said Sutarman.

The IPSC, which is a 262-hectare compound constructed by the Defence Ministry in 2010, comprises seven offices and training centers operated by, among others, the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police.

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