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Use of tear gas by Indonesian police questioned in the wake of soccer tragedy with mass deaths

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After at least 125 people were killed during a stampede following clashes between fans and security forces at a football match in Indonesia on Saturday, rights groups are sounding the alarm about the use of tear gas at the event, urging a thorough investigation and reassessment of crowd control policies. .

The game ended with the local team Arema FC losing 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya, and football fans from an audience of approximately 42,000 streamed onto the field. The massive crowd was greeted by uniformed officers carrying batons and riot shields. Witnesses told The Washington Post that security personnel fired tear gas directly and indiscriminately into the crowd of people.

In a panic, tens of thousands ran for the exit, fatally trampling the fallen people. East Java Police Chief Nico Afinta told a news conference that people died of breathing problems and suffocation while trying to leave the stadium. He confirmed that the agents used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The firing of tear gas into packed stadiums has caused mass casualties and deaths in the past by funneling crowds of fleeing people into narrow exits. Guidelines set out by FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, specifically exclude the use of “crowd control gas”.

Groups in Jakarta, including soccer fans, held vigils. They lit candles, sang, cried and raised football team scarves to commemorate the lives lost.

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Human rights groups and authorities are calling for investigations.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo at a video statement He said he hopes this will be “the last football tragedy in Indonesia.”

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He ordered three leaders – from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Indonesian Football Association and the national police – to assess the football match and its security procedures. He asked the head of the National Police to “thoroughly investigate” the case.

Suspended League 1 until the evaluation has been carried out.

“We must not allow football competition to become a human killing machine,” MP Luqman Hakim said tweeted.

Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid called in a statement on the authorities to carry out a prompt and independent investigation into the use of tear gas in the stadium and to “ensure that those who have committed infractions are tried in open court.” and are not limited to receiving internal or administrative sanctions.”

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Hamid also called on the police to review their policies on tear gas, as well as “other ‘less-lethal weapons,’” to ensure such a tragedy does not happen again, he said.

Stampede at Indonesian soccer match leaves 125 dead, authorities say

“No one should lose their life in a football match,” Hamid said.

Tear gas “should only be used to disperse crowds when widespread violence has occurred and when other methods have failed,” Hamid said, adding that people should be warned and allowed to disperse, and that tear gas should not be fired into tight spaces.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino called it “a tragedy beyond comprehension.” The flags flew at half-staff at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich.

Daniel Alexander Siagian, coordinator of the Malang branch of the Surabaya Legal Aid Institute, questioned why the military were apparently present in the arena, telling The Post that authorities “did not follow a clear procedure.”

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The deaths in Indonesia are the latest tragedies in football history

Soccer games have been deadly in the past.

In Ghana in 2001, more than 120 fans died in a very similar situation: the police fired tear gas, causing a panic outburst. The gates to the stadium were also reportedly locked.

More than 300 fans were killed in a 1964 Olympic qualifying match in Peru, when fans stormed the field and sparked a police response and riots. Police fired tear gas canisters into the crowd and some fans were shot outside the stadium.

In Russia in 1982, more than 60 Russian fans died after police funneled them through a single stadium corridor, jamming and crushing people in the small space as some ran back to watch a late goal.


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