According to The Diplomat, 12 people have been arrested as suspects in a transnational organ trafficking ring. The suspects include a police officer from Bekasi and a Balinese immigration officer, as well as nine former victims of organ trafficking. They are accused of luring as many as 122 Indonesian nationals to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where their kidneys were harvested for sale in Preah Ket Mealea Hospital. The immigration officer appears to have played a critical role in the organized crime, falsifying travel documents and receiving $200 per victim.
“The transnational trafficking group had been in operation since 2019 and had netted some $1.6 billion over the years, with each victim promised just $9,000 for a kidney.” – The Diplomat, according to Hengki Haryadi, the Jakarta police director for general crimes
Among the victims are teachers, executives, security guards, and factory workers who allegedly agreed to sell their kidneys in exchange for cash. According to the Jakarta police director for general crimes, they had lost their jobs during the pandemic and were desperate for money.
If convicted, the suspects can expect a maximum of 15 years in prison and a potential fine of up to $39,000. The immigration officer and the policeman are implicated in further charges related to the abuse of power and obstruction of justice.
Not an uncommon occurrence
Organ trafficking is not a rarity in the region. Poverty, a shortage of employment, and the need for money make many Indonesians vulnerable to exploitation, in addition to low literacy and access to education. Criminals lure victims into thinking they will work abroad with tempting salaries and promises to pay for their travel and passport costs. However, upon arrival, many realize they must repay this debt. Then, their organs are taken and sold if they don’t work hard enough.
Furthermore, the geographical location of Indonesia and its weak borders exacerbate the problem. Victims are also often trafficked for forced labor or debt bondage from Indonesia to other Asian countries or the Middle East.
Lack of legislation and implementation
The World Health Organization (WHO) has prohibited paid organ donation since 1987. Indonesia is among the countries that outlaw the practice in their local legislation. They signed the Palermo Convention and the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, which was signed into local law in 2009. In addition, the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, makes the country bound to the regional agreement since 2015.
In comparison to paid organ donation, voluntary organ donation is legal for anyone above the age of 18 who has permission from their doctor and family. Due to a lack of legislation, a persisting problem is the blurred lines between legal donation and illegal sale. This fuels the illegal organ trade. Furthermore, victims may also face criminal sanctions, preventing them from coming forward.
Source: Freedom United