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Indonesia: More Lenient Treatment for Drug Users

(Aug. 12, 2014) On August 16, 2014, a new ministerial regulation will come into force in Indonesia that is designed to promote rehabilitation rather than incarceration of drug users, in some cases permitting substitution of stays in rehabilitation centers for jail time. The regulation was issued jointly by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN); the National Police; the Attorney General’s Office; and the Ministries of Law and Human Rights, Social Affairs, and Health. (Yuliasri Perdani, Govt Shows Leniency Toward Drug Users, JAKARTA POST (Aug. 8, 2014); Joint Regulation on Processing of Drug Addicts and Victims of Drug Abuse into Rehabilitation Centers (Joint Regulation) [in Indonesian] (Mar. 11, 2014), available at West Java Police Drug Investigation Directorate website.)

The Joint Regulation specifies that each drug addict that the police detain will undergo an assessment, after which a prosecutor will decide whether he or she may enter a therapeutic program in lieu of incarceration. Those found to be involved in the sale of drugs will not be eligible. According to Inspector General Ronny F. Sompie of the National Police, this program will be offered only to those users who self-surrender to either the police or the BNN. He further noted that the ability to assign a person to a rehab program could not be given directly to the police, as that “would pave the way to corruption.” (Perdani, supra.)

The Joint Regulation will first be implemented via a pilot program, to be established this month in a number of localities where rehabilitation facilities already exist. Among others, these include Bogor, East Jakarta, Makassar, Mataram, Padang, the Riau Islands, Semarang, South Jakarta, and South Tangerang. Anang Iskandar, the head of the National Narcotics Agency, stated that appropriate programs would be set up in all the cities in the country by 2016. (Id.)


Indonesia’s Law on Narcotics, enacted in 2009, included from the outset provisions that authorized judges to recommend rehabilitation over imprisonment, but that has not yet been the predominant approach adopted towards infringers. Jailing of drug users in large numbers has led to crowded prisons throughout the country. (Indonesia Prosecutors Urged to Send People Who Use Drugs to Rehabilitation, Not Prison, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime website (Oct. 18, 2013); Perdani, supra; Undang-undang Nomor 35 Tahun 2009 Tentang Narkotika [Law No. 35, 2009, on Narcotics] (Oct. 12, 2009), Parliament of the Republic of Indonesia website.)

In February 2013, the Attorney General’s Office advocated stressing medical and social rehabilitation of those convicted of drug use, rather than imprisoning them. (Indonesia Prosecutors Urged to Send People Who Use Drugs to Rehabilitation, Not Prison, supra.) In March 2014, seven government agencies concluded an agreement, signed in the presence of Vice President Boediono, that included guidelines on moving addicts into rehabilitation. While not a law itself, the agreement gave emphasis to the provisions in the 2009 Law that permit users to be sent to rehab over prison. (Patrick Tibke, Indonesia Struggles to Reform Archaic Drug Policies, ASIAN CORRESPONDENT.COM (May 22, 2014).) The Regulation that is becoming effective this month was also adopted in March. (Joint Regulation.)


Indonesia has a significant population of drug users. As of 2011, the BNN estimated 3.7-4.7 million people were abusing substances including crystalline methamphetamine and other amphetamines, cannabis, and ecstasy, but only a small minority had spent time in rehabilitation facilities. (Indonesia Prosecutors Urged to Send People Who Use Drugs to Rehabilitation, Not Prison, supra.) At present Indonesia has the capacity to treat 18,000 drug users a year, with 16,000 of them in privately run facilities and only 2,000 in programs administered directly by the government. The goal of the BNN is to have places for 400,000 addicts in rehabilitation centers annually, with the ultimate aim of providing treatment for four million Indonesians in ten years. (Perdani, supra.)

According to Reverend Daniel Alamsjah of the Betesda Drug and Mental Rehabilitation Center, located in the city of Magelang, in Central Java, the regulation and goals are important because the addicts’ condition does not improve while they are incarcerated. He said, “[b]eing in prison has a negative influence on them. They get in with the wrong people and then their condition deteriorates. Some of my patients died in prison due to several causes, such as drug overdoses and HIV/AIDS.” (Id.)