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Amnesty: Indonesia waging its own 'war on drugs'

Police killings of suspected drug dealers have spiked, with 60 recorded deaths so far this year compared to 18 in 2016. The trend has led Amnesty International to warn that the country could be emulating the Philippines.

The dramatic spike in the number of unlawful killings carried out by Indonesian police against suspected drug dealersis the latest signal that the country could be sliding into a "war on drugs" similar to that seen in the Philippines, rights group Amnesty International warned on Wednesday.

Data obtained by the group showed a more than 200-percent rise in drug-related killings carried out by Indonesian police so far this year, with the number of deaths rising up to 60 from just 18 last year.

Read more: Why Jakarta presses forward with drug executions despite global outcry

Amnesty's director in Indonesia, Usman Hamid, said in a statement: "This shocking escalation in unlawful killings by the police sounds serious alarm bells. While Indonesian authorities have a duty to respond to increasing rates of drug use in the country, shooting people on sight is never a solution. Not only is it unlawful, it will also do nothing to address the root causes that lead to drug use in the first place."

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Most of the violence has been concentrated around the capital city of Jakarta or the well-known drug trafficking hub of Sumatra.

Indonesia officials back tough stance

Indonesian police forces have justified the increase in killings, saying victims were shot for resisting arrest. However, Amnesty said it found no evidence that authorities had conducted even a single independent investigation into the shootings.

That data also reflects the Indonesian government's increasingly tough rhetoric on drug-related crime, with President "Jokowi" Widodo openly endorsing the use of unrestrained force against suspected foreign traffickers, especially those resisting arrest. "Be firm, especially to foreign drug dealers who enter the country and resist arrest," he said at a speech in Jakarta in late July. "Enough, just shoot them. Be merciless."

Indonesia Joko Widodo (Reuters/Beawiharta)

Indonesia's Joko Widodo has endorsed the use of force in policing drug-related crimes

Police chief hails Duterte's "war on drugs"

The president's remarks came after the country's national police chief, General Tito Karnavian, ordered officers "not to hesitate shooting drug dealers who resist arrest" and praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal "war on drugs" as an effective means of making drug dealers "go away."

Since coming to power in May last year, Duterte has waged a brutal war on drugs in a bid to wipe out the use of narcotics in the Philippines. According to police data, some 3,500 so-called "drug personalities" have been killed by Duterte's anti-drug squadsover the past year, as well as a further 2,000 people linked to drug-related crimes.

Read more: Alleged hitman links Duterte to 'death squad' killings

Earlier this year, Amnesty documented that anti-drug forces had grown to resemble a criminal enterprise more than a police force.

"President Duterte should not under any circumstances be considered a role model for Indonesia," said Amnesty's Hamid. "Far from making the Philippines safer, his bloody 'war on drugs' has led to the deaths of thousands without any form of accountability."

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dm/kms (AFP, Amnesty)

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