Northwestern Events Calendar


Death Squad as ‘Legitimate’ Crime Control? The Problems of PETRUS in Suharto's Indonesia

When: Tuesday, November 8, 2016
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM Central

Where: 1902 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Public

Contact: Elizabeth Morrissey  

Group: Equality Development and Globalization Studies (EDGS)

Co-Sponsor: Department of Political Science

Category: Lectures & Meetings


EDGS Speaker Series: “Society and Politics in the Asia-Pacific”

Co-sponsored with Political Science and WCAS

ShawnaKim Blake Lowey-Ball, University of Utah

For much of 1983, Indonesians were terrorized by dead bodies that were dumped overnight across the island of Java. Frequently grotesquely mutilated, these corpses were intentionally left in very public spaces: by roadsides, on bridges, and outside movie theaters, for example. By the end of the year, several thousand people had been murdered, most of them minor criminals. This "Petrus" campaign was orchestrated by the Indonesian government and perpetrated primarily by the military, though neither institution has ever taken official responsibility for the deaths.
At the time, several foreign governments condemned the Petrus operation as illegal and cruel, and today anonymous extralegal "death squads" continue to evoke horror in the west. Yet within Indonesia itself, Petrus garnered a surprising amount of popular support. Most Indonesians approved of the operation and reported that the killings were effective as a form of crime control. Moreover, the secrecy of the killings coupled with the spectacle of the publicly displayed corpses, while much maligned internationally, both emphasized the government’s strength and directly engaged the Indonesian populace. The same elements that shocked the outside world, then, also led directly to widespread public support for Petrus within Indonesia.


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