Accountability demanded over stadium stampede

The tragedy has sparked anger among the public, particularly over the police’s decision to fire tear gas inside a stadium.

Dio Suhenda

Dio Suhenda

The Jakarta Post


Arema FC soccer players and officials leave flowers on a monument outside the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, on Oct. 3, 2022, as they pay respects to the victims of a riot and stampede following Saturday's match between Arema and Persebaya FC.(Reuters/Willy Kurniawan)

October 5, 2022

JAKARTA – The government has set up a fact-finding team to investigate the stampede that left at least 125 people dead in Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, on Saturday, as calls for accountability mount over the worst sporting incident in the country’s history.

The team will consist of representatives from soccer organizations, experts and academics, as well as members of the relevant ministries, Coordinating Legal, Political and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD said during a streamed press conference in Jakarta on Monday “[We] can expect [the team’s] task to be finished in two to three weeks.”

The stampede occurred following a soccer match between rival teams Arema FC of Malang and Persebaya Surabaya on Saturday night, which was won by the latter, triggering supporters of the home team to storm onto the field venting their anger.

Police, armed with batons and shields, responded by tackling the soccer fans, while also firing tear gas canisters into the stands of the overpacked stadium – prompting spectators to rush to the exit in a deadly stampede.

The tragedy has sparked anger among the public, particularly over the police’s decision to fire tear gas inside a stadium, seen as one of the main causes of the tragedy, over the failure of the soccer match organizers to take necessary precautionary steps, and over the violence inflicted by the security authorities on Arema fans.

Footage circulating on social media show several Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel kicking, punching and hitting spectators with batons during the incident.

No resignation

Despite widespread public criticism, no senior official within the National Police or the Soccer Association of Indonesia (PSSI) or the Sports Ministry has resigned over the tragedy. Several of the security personnel on the ground, however, are facing charges and dismissal.

TNI commander Gen. Andika Perkasa said that soldiers involved in the incident would be prosecuted and that the TNI had also launched an investigation to look into the extent of violence committed by the soldiers.

“We’re not looking into disciplinary actions, but criminal prosecution, because what was displayed was an excessive use of force. It was not self-defense, it was purely criminal action,” Andika said as quoted by Antara news wire.

The police, meanwhile, are investigating 28 security personnel for ethics breaches they allegedly committed while handling the riot. At least nine members of the police’s Mobile Brigade have been suspended for their roles in the incident.

Valentino Simanjuntak, the host of the BRI Indonesian League, meanwhile, has resigned from his post as a regular commentator in the competition, saying that he no longer has a desire to be part in the soccer league after the tragedy.

Calls for accountability

Saturday’s stampede has sparked public outrage, as families and friends of victims as well as human rights groups, have called on the government to show more accountability, particularly since there have been allegations of protocol failure.

In a statement on Monday, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, said that the ongoing investigation should have a priority focus on holding accountable both the police commanders, as well as rank and file officers, who decided to fire significant and apparently excessive amounts of tear gas.

World soccer governing body FIFA states in its stadium safety regulations that “no firearms or crowd control gas” should be carried or used by stewards or police inside a stadium. “All those responsible should be held accountable for this disaster, regardless of their status or position,” Robertson said, adding that FIFA should also conduct its own independent investigation into the incident.

Meanwhile, a coalition of rights groups calling itself the Civil Society Coalition for Security Sector Reforms slammed what it described as the negligence of the match and league organizers for failing to apply proper risk-mitigation efforts for the match, including selling more tickets than the stadium’s 38,000-person capacity.

“The match and league organizers must be held responsible, both in terms of negligence and compensation for causing the deaths of spectators, as well as in regard to the rehabilitation of the [surviving] victims,” the coalition, consisting of the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) and the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) among others, said on Sunday.

‘Murderer! Murderer!’

Local media outlets have also reported that a group of Arema supporters, dubbed the Aremania, said that they planned to launch a lawsuit against Arema’s match organizers. The group also held a vigil outside the stadium on Sunday.

In Jakarta, hundreds of soccer fans gathered outside the country’s biggest stadium in Jakarta late on Sunday chanting “murderer! murderer!”, singing songs in support of Arema and placing police tape on the complex’s fence.

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