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Indonesian football stampede blamed on tear gas use

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JAKARTA: Indonesian police firing tear gas was the main trigger for a deadly football stampede at a stadium in East Java last month, the country’s human rights commission found in a report on the incident released on Wednesday.

Officials from the human rights commission (Komnas HAM) said 135 people had died, mostly from asphyxiation, in the stampede after the match at Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang regency on Oct. 1.

Indonesian authorities and the Indonesian football Association (PSSI) have faced questions and criticism in recent weeks over why police fired 45 rounds of tear gas inside the stadium, a crowd control measure banned by world football governing body Fifa.

“There needs to be legal responsibility,” said Komnas HAM chairperson Ahmad Taufan Damanik.

The human rights commission echoed similar conclusions made last month by a government fact-finding team, which found that multiple factors like excessive use of tear gas, locked doors, an overcapacity stadium and failure to properly implement safety procedures exacerbated the deadly crush.

Komnas HAM commissioners specified seven violations of human rights in one of the world’s worst stadium disasters, including the excessive use of force and violation of children’s rights, as the fatalities included 38 minors.

The rights body concluded that organisers had favoured commercial interests over safety standards despite warnings from Malang police the match was high-risk because of a fierce rivalry between fans of the two participating clubs.

In its list of recommendations, Komnas HAM urged President Joko Widodo to form an independent team to audit all stadiums across the country to ensure adherence to Fifa regulations. If no improvements were made in three months, football matches in the country should to be suspended, the commissioners said.

After meeting with Fifa chief Gianni Infantino in Jakarta last month, the president announced that Kanjuruhan stadium would be demolished and rebuilt, and vowed the sport would be “thoroughly transformed” in the football-mad Southeast Asian nation.

Fifa has set up an office in Indonesia to help overhaul safety measures as the country prepares to host the Under-20 World Cup next year.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2022


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