Police chief fired amid investigation into deadly stadium disaster
The Kanjuruhan Stadium disaster in Indonesia which led to the deaths of at least 125 football fans on Saturday has prompted the firing of a police chief and nine elite police officers, as well as an investigation into 18 others, it has been reported.
Indonesian police are under intense scrutiny following the tragic scenes which appeared to be exacerbated by the use of tear gas following a pitch invasion at the overcrowded stadium in Malang regency, East Java.
Reports indicated that the gas was aimed not just at fans who invaded the pitch, but also without warning towards people who had remained in the stands.
This is thought to have prompted a crush which led to the 125 deaths reported as of Tuesday. The figure includes 32 children, with the youngest thought to have been just four years old.
A further 323 are understood to have been injured, with many of those remaining in a critical condition.
Video clips of the incident were widely circulated on social media, with some showing fans attempting to escape clouds of tear gas and others attempting to provide medical attention to injured individuals.
FIFA guidelines prohibit the use of “crowd control gas” inside football stadiums by stewards and police.
Indonesia’s chief security minister, Mahfud MD, has announced an investigation into the circumstances of the disaster, which follows the dismissal of Malang police chief Ferli Hidayat.
National police spokesperson Dedy Prasetyo also announced that 18 officers are under investigation for the use of tear gas – with some understood to be high-ranking police officers.
“All those responsible should be held accountable for this disaster, regardless of their status or position,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch, who added that the investigation must be fully impartial and that its findings must be released to the public.
“It’s not enough for the national police and the Football Association of Indonesia to conduct their own investigation because they may be tempted to downplay or undermine full accountability for officials involved.”
Robertson also called upon FIFA to launch its own simultaneous investigation.
Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, said that the tragedy was “a dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension.”
However, East Java’s police chief, Nico Afinta, backed the response of the police at a press conference on Sunday, saying that fans “began to attack the police, acting anarchically and burning vehicles.”
Javier Roca, the Chilean coach in charge of Arema, who were one of the two teams involved in the ill–fated match, stated afterwards that he was aware of some supporters dying in the arms of his players.
“I think the police overstepped their mark, even though I wasn’t out there and didn’t experience the outcome,” he added.
It remains to be seen what action – if any – will be taken against the Indonesian football authorities as a result of the tragedy.
The country is set to host the 2023 Under-20 World Cup which begins next May.