Indonesia's police chief orders rehab, not prison, for drug users

The National Police chief has ordered police personnel nationwide to send drug users immediately to rehabilitation centres, instead of locking them up in detention.

National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti said in a classified telegram on Thursday that a team of doctors and legal experts were to assess whether a suspect was a drug trafficker or drug user.

If the team suggests that the suspect is only a substance abuser then the individual must be sent to a rehabilitation centre pending their case dossier to be completed by the local prosecutor's office.

Although the instructions given by Badrodin, and signed by detective division chief and former National Narcotics Agency (BNN) chief Comr. Gen. Anang Iskandar, were in line with Law No. 35/2009 on narcotics, police officers rarely chose the option of sending drug users to rehabilitation centres as officers often used the threat of arrest to extort money from them.

Badrodin acknowledged on Friday that there had been cases of police investigators extorting money from drug abusers in exchange for rehabilitation.

"Everything can be abused and that is why there needs to be supervision, although this policy is already written in our laws. Yes, there is a chance that [the law] could be interpreted in different ways but we have already signed an agreement with the Attorney General's Office [AGO], Law and Human Rights Ministry and the Supreme Court [to overcome the problem]," he said at the National Police headquarters in South Jakarta.

Badrodin also assured that the decision to either send someone to rehab or undergo prosecution would be made as objective as possible, as the assessment team would also consist of police, prosecutors, doctors and BNN officials.

"The assessment is not based on the police's subjective view but that of doctors as well," he said.

According to BNN data, 3.8 million to 4.1 million people aged between 10 and 59 were estimated to have used or were actively using drugs throughout 2014.

Jakarta has the highest concentration of drug users among provinces at 364,174, or 4.74 per cent of the population of 7,688,600 people.

Police expert Bambang Widodo Umar said that Badrodin's fresh order was a reminder for officers to act appropriately when arresting an alleged drug abuser.

However, he reminded that the decision to rehabilitate a suspect continued to be in the hands of inves-tigators implementing the current laws.

"This means that rogue investigators might continue [to legally process or extort money from drug abusers]. This is why it is necessary for the police chief to set up strict supervision and penalties for those who disobey the order," he said.

Separately, Anti-Narcotic National Movement (Granat) founder Henry Yosodingrat said that the police force needed to treat casual drug users and drug addicts differently.

He said that casual drug users could still be charged depending on what type of drugs they used.

"If experts assess the suspect and say the suspect is an addict then yes, they should be sent to rehab. However, if the suspect is just someone who liked to use crystal methamphetamine at a club then they must be charged," he said.