Indonesia: Police Officers On Trial Over Soccer Stampede

An Indonesian court in Surabaya began a trial on Monday of three police officers, a security official, and a match organizer charged with negligence over their alleged roles in a deadly soccer stadium stampede that claimed the lives of 135 people last year.

Indonesia: Police Officers On Trial Over Soccer Stampede
Image credit: Reuters

Facts

  • An Indonesian court in Surabaya began a trial on Monday of three police officers, a security official, and a match organizer charged with negligence over their alleged roles in a deadly soccer stadium stampede that claimed the lives of 135 people last year.
  • They could face a maximum prison sentence of five years if convicted over the disaster that happened last October at the Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java reportedly after police fired tear gas to disperse fans who flooded the pitch after the home team lost to their rival.
  • The incident has prompted widespread questions surrounding the training and professionalism of Indonesia's police, with an official fact-finding team concluding that the "excessive" and "indiscriminate" use of tear gas by the police had set off a panicked run for the exits.
  • Initially, there were initially six suspects but one still remains under police investigation. Tear gas is prohibited at matches as well as firearms, according to guidelines set out by soccer's international governing body FIFA.
  • At the time of the disaster, police characterized the incident as a riot and announced two police officers were killed. Videos of the event show officers using force, kicking and hitting fans with batons, and pushing spectators back into the stands.
  • Indonesia's human rights commission found that police fired 45 rounds of tear gas into the crowd at the end of the match. The commission also determined that locked doors, stadium overcapacity, and negligence in implementing safety measures worsened the death toll.

Sources: Reuters, Al Jazeera, Diplomat, WWW3, VOA, and Euro.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by Jakarta Post. Soccer riots are relatively common in Indonesia, and this tragedy highlights the problems with the use of tear gas by Indonesian police — often playing a role in many stadium disasters in the nation's history. It is baffling that the police are claiming they did not know that tear gas use was banned by FIFA, and the entire tragedy can be blamed upon years of mismanagement and corruption at the heart of Indonesian football.
  • Narrative B, as provided by Independent. Indonesian soccer seems to be driven by hooliganism, and it must be remembered that the disaster began after the home team was beaten. While police and management of Indonesian soccer must be held accountable, we must also hope that the disaster will be a long-overdue wake-up call to stand up against hooligan culture and crowd violence.