HRDs being interviewed by journalists


Indonesia: In 2019 Human Rights Defenders Continue to Be Threatened

19 December 2019

Jakarta/Brussels December 9, 2019 – On International Human Rights Defenders Day, the Civil Society Coalition for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Human Rights Defenders Coalition), a coalition in which Protection International Indonesia is a member, hosted an event highlighting the continued threats facing Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in Indonesia. The Human Rights Defenders Coalition also produced recommendations for the Indonesian Government on better protection of HRDs in the country.

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition deems the respect of human rights and the protection of human rights defenders under President Joko Widodo’s second term alarming and under threat.

Evidenced by cases of violence, torture, prohibition on freedom of expression, criminalization based on false accusations, repressive actions by security forces against demonstrators, and highly suspicious deaths of human rights defenders, it is clear that the landscape for the defense of human rights has gravely deteriorated, reinforced by a stark shrinking of space for civil society over the past 5 years. This reality has not improved since the beginning of President Jokowi’s second term.

Choices made by President Jokowi reflect a deep disregard for the respect of human rights, as seen with the appointment of Prabowo Subianto as Indonesia’s Minister of Defence. Accused of being involved in a massacre in Kraras (East Timor) in 1983, Subianto was dismissed from the Indonesian Army in 1998 on grounds of kidnapping and torturing of activists.

Between January 2014 and November 2019, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition recorded at least 73 cases of violations against HRDs – 23 were reported in 2019 alone. Criminalization was the main form of violation (31 cases). The majority of violations against human rights defenders were perpetrated by the police (27 cases).

The death of environmental lawyer Walhi Golfrid Siregar from Medan was a case that received significant public attention.  Although North Sumatran police concluded it was a traffic accident, the circumstances of Siregar’s death are still unclear. Alongside other irregularities in Siregar’s case, the head injuries he sustained appear to have resulted from blunt force rather than by car accident.

Criminalization is a common strategy and threat in the silencing of human rights defenders. Ananda Badudu, Adnan Topan Husodo, Asfinawati, Dhandy Dwi Laksono, Veronica Koman, and many others experienced this when protesting regulations or drafting regulations potentially endangering democracy in Indonesia.

Recently some academics had their communication devices hacked after publicly criticising the government and the House of Representatives after the rejection of problematic regulations in the House of Representatives. This was the case for Hariadi Kartodihardjo, lecturer at the Bogor Institute of Agriculture, whose WhatsApp account sent out messages not composed by Kartodihardjo on the revision of the KPK Law (Corruption Eradication Commission Law).

Peaceful demonstrations against the revision of the KPK Law (Corruption Eradication Commission Law) and the ratification of the RKUHP (Criminal Code Draft Bill) have been increasingly repressed by state authorities. Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested by the police and some of them were tortured.

Moreover, the ongoing case of an acid attack on Novel Baswedan, an investigator from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), and the obstruction of inquiry into the death of Munir Said Thalib show the prevalence of impunity in the protection of HRDs in Indonesia.

So far, no serious efforts have been made by the government, especially the police, to uncover cases of violence against human rights defenders in Indonesia. Given the situation, the Coalition urges:

  1. The Government and House of Representatives provide guarantees of protection for human rights defenders in Indonesia. One of these measures is to establish a system of protection for human rights defenders through a revision of Law No. 39 of 1999 concerning Human Rights; as well as placing the revised agenda for Law No. 39 of 1999 as a 2020 Prolegnas (National Legislation Program) priority.
  1. The Indonesian National Police investigates cases of violence against human rights defenders, including the case of the death of Golfrid Siregar, stops the criminalization of human rights defenders, and establishes a mechanism of protection for human rights defenders that is consolidated with other institutions/bodies such as Komnas HAM (National Commission of Human Rights) / National Commission for Women.

Civil Society Coalition for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Yayasan Perlindungan Insani Indonesia, ELSAM, IMPARSIAL, , LBH Pers, Kemitraan, Human Rights Watch, YLBHI, KontraS, HRWG, ICW, AJI, Setara Institute, INFID, LBH Jakarta, PBHI, WALHI, ILR, KPA, AMAN, Arus Pelangi, Jatam, Solidaritas Perempuan, Amnesty International Indonesia