NPR’s Ayesha Rascoe speaks with Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid about the stampede at the soccer stadium that left at least 125 dead after police fired tear gas into the crowd.
(SOUNDBITE OF SHOOTING)
AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:
That’s the sound of police firing tear gas into an unusual crowd at a soccer stadium in East Java, Indonesia, last night. At least 125 people died in the stampede and that figure is being revised. And 100 more were injured after fans ran onto the field at the end of a game in which the host team lost. Usman Hamid is Executive Director of Amnesty International in Indonesia. He joins us now. Welcome to the show.
USMAN HAMID: Thank you.
RASCOE: What’s the latest update on the situation?
HAMID: So, the latest update that we got from our sources, from hospitals, local health centers, local media, and also from families, there are more deaths identified right now, following a football match riot, including children and adolescents, not to mention those injured in hospitals. More and more people are being identified as victims of this tragic incident.
RASCOE: FIFA is the governing body for international soccer and has banned tear gas in soccer stadiums. So do we know why tear gas was used in this situation?
HAMID: We don’t know exactly, but the police claim that they have used tear gas according to the law, which we don’t agree with. I believe that tear gas should only be used to disperse crowds when widespread violence has occurred and when other methods have failed. People should be warned that tear gas will be used and allowed to disperse. And this is not what we saw in recent horrific incidents. And I believe that tear gas should never be launched in confined spaces, such as inside the stadium. And it is clear, as you said, the FIFA stadium security guidelines also prohibit the carrying or use of crowd control gas by stewards or police.
RASCOE: What about stadium security management? Did they say anything about how things got out of hand?
HAMID: The public was told that more than 300 were rushed to nearby health centers to treat injuries, but many died on the way to hospital. But also, they blame some of the supporters, the losing side of the supporters, for causing the riot. And on the other hand, the capacity of the stadium is, I think it is not enough to have so many people. I mean, the capacity of the stadium is only 30,000 people, whereas we have more than 42,000 people inside the stadium. And this is still in times of COVID, in times of pandemic in Indonesia. So I really don’t understand why the authorities allow such a huge crowd to come to the Malang stadium.
RASCOE: In the few seconds we have left, what are you asking the authorities to do?
HAMID: We ask that you carry out a prompt, thorough and independent investigation, especially into the use of tear gas in the stadium and ensure that those found to have committed violations are tried in an open court and not simply given an inmate or sanction. administrative, as we have seen in the past.
RASCOE: Usman Hamid is the executive director of Amnesty International in Indonesia. Thank you very much for joining us.
HAMID: Thank you very much.
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