GUS: A police force modelled after Indonesia's Brimob?

by Khatry Beirouk




Brimob (mobile police brigade, the anti-riot police), is the cruel Indonesian special police task force in charge of cracking down with unusual force at protests. The force received better equipment, food, and salary than other Indonesian security units. According to Suharto's government, Brimob's role was to maintain public order and deal with the " burgeoning protest movement of youngsters on the streets"(1)) of Indonesia and East Timor. The anti-riot police performed loyally, if brutally. They were equipped with rifles, anti-riot gear, water cannon, armoured personal carriers and high-tech communications equipment. All around Indonesia, Brimob was responsible for much of the repression against peaceful protesters, a role that they later replicated in East Timor.

The notorious bridage instilled fear among the East Timorese; its units took part in extensive operations and was a key instrument of repression under the Suharto dictatorship. Brimob was involved in numerous reppressive actions in response to internal Indonesian unrest, but its main task was to spread terror and violence in East Timor.

The force members harrased, intimidated and killed scores of East Timorese. Their methods of torture and degrading treatment of detainees became legendary. Brimob conducted daily sweeps, "villagers have been killed, some have disappeared, and many flee in search of safety".(2)

The special police role intensified as it became apparent that the East Timorese resistance was far stronger than had been anticipated and it would take longer than expected to subjugate it. Thus, the task force became the key player in the war against the East Timorese. Human Rights organizations demanded that Brimob must comply with international human rights standards and that "any of its members, including commanding officers, involvement in human rights violations be immediately suspended from duty".(3)
Brimob's operations were intended to create an atmosphere of fear to demoralised the population.

GUS (Urban Security Units)

The Moroccan GUS or 'Groupes Urbains de Sécurité', were constituted in October 2004. Equipped with motorbikes and all-terrain vehicles, the units were created to " fight against all forms of urban delinquency corroding the social fabric of the cities".(4) This special police was conceived - as a 'new approach to face urban insecurity' - by the Moroccan security service, known by its French acronym, DGSN (Direction Générale de Sûreté Nationale), headed by general Hamidou Laanigri.

The GUS received special training and its force is numbered around 4,000 agents, albeit " Moroccan authorities plan an increase in size, to reach over 6,000 members" (5), by 2006 and up to 12,000 personnel by the year 2007.

Saharawis have told stories of interrogations, searched and ransacked houses, theft of the property, physical abuse and inhumane treatment, at the hands of these police units. The countless bloody pictures sent through the internet are a testament to their atrocity. Other increasing cases of GUS brutality - and even the intimidation and threat of journalists - have been recently reported. Members of the GUS are allegedly linked to the murder of Lembarki Hamdi, a young Saharawi who brandished the flag of the SADR during a peaceful demonstration in El Aaiun. "This police unit reportedly has a reputation of intimidating the city's Sahrawi population, causing the marching crowd to intensify its protests." (6)

Several human rights organizations, as well as Lembarki's family, have called on the Moroccan government to immediately initiate an investigation into the incident and to bring those responsible to justice. In view of the apparent involvement of the GUS in the killing, any investigation must be carried out by experts who are independent of both the police and the government, if it is to be regarded as credible.

On November 4, Moroccan police detained several journalists in El Aaiun, among them the Spanish journalist Luis de Vega Hernández, a reporter for the daily "ABC", during a Saharawi pro-independence rally. Hernández was recording the event when the security operatives accosted and rough-handled him and thereafter confiscated his camera.

Last September in Morocco, over 2,000 poor villagers of Bouarfa and Talsint (Figuig region) fled their lands and marched toward the Algerian border, in an attempt to draw attention to their appalling conditions exacerbated by years of economic crisis (7). When the local authorities failed to convince them to desist of the idea , the mission to stop them on their tracks was given to.... the GUS.

Despite having meagre resources, compared to Brimob, the GUS savagery against Saharawis has nonetheless shown its competitiveness. Founded only a year ago, the new police force has already built quite an impressive record. Due to their cruelty, they are dubbed: "A-Zarqawiyin" (for their hideous operations) , "Croatia" (in allusion to their uniforms), or plainly "the enemies of the people"(8), by most of the population. They have become widely known for their ruthlessness and disregard for basic human rights, even by Morocco's own somewhat flexible human rights standards.

The GUS' horrifying injuries inflicted on defenseless civilian population - with the intention of breaking the will of the pro-independence protests in Western Sahara to continue resistance - may still prove to be futile. If the fate of the East Timorese - and the failure of Brimob to break their will- could serve as an example, it only proves that the oppressed will not be cowed, will not bow to intimidation, and will not waver in their resolve. GUS is Makhzen's last bullet.

1. East Timor under the Indonesian jackboot, Occasional Report No. 26, Oct 98

2. State Terror in Indonesia, Past and Present. A paper presented at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews University, Scotland, 20 November 2001

3. "Indonesia: Aid Workers Executed in Aceh", Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International

4. Les GUS débarquent ! -

5. Sécurité pour tous !, La Gazette du Maroc, 24 October 2004

6. Sahrawis talk of "new Intifada" in El Aaiun, Afrol News, 25 Masy 2005

7. "Angry marchers threaten to go to Algeria", Moroccan daily Assabah, September 2005

8. The aim of the heavily displayed GUS units is not to guarantee security, Al Jareeda, in Arabic, November 2005

See also: " 'Croatia' [GUS] terrorizes the population of El Aaiun", Moroccan daily Assabah, in Arabic, 3 November 2005