INDONESIA: Long Journey of the Work of AHRC Empowering and Inspiring

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and its sister organization, the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), have long history of journey working with local human rights networks and organizations in Indonesia. In addition, the AHRC also has long experiences working with association of victims and family of victims of past human rights abuses such as association of victims of 1965 massacre, association of victims of Talangsari Massacre 1989 and also other association of victims and family of victims in Indonesia.

The AHRC has done and achieved many great works including international advocacy, publication of reports on human rights violations, urgent appeals, and various statements and publications, audio and video campaign of human rights situation in Indonesia through AHRC TV, YouTube videos and movies.

This short essay notes that the AHRC as a regional and international human rights organization, has put a strong foundation and legacy to the development of human rights in Indonesia.

What do AHRC and ALRC do for Indonesia?

Since the year of 1999 until present various types of works and tools have been introducing by the AHRC to local and national partners in Indonesia. This short essay notes some achievement of the work of AHRC in the last 20 years is as follow: strengthening advocacy and campaign of human rights cases in Indonesia along with local partners, empowering capability and capacity of organization and also human resources of the local partners, one of the cooperation is through internship program.

Since 2005, approximately 15 lawyer and human rights defenders did internship in AHRC. Currently, the alumni of internship program have become key actors in promoting human rights and democracy in Indonesia. They hold important positions, such as parliament member, commissioner of Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Aceh TRC), prominent human rights lawyers and leader of human rights organizations in many provinces of Indonesia.

The AHRC has introduced and shared its experiences to empower national and local partner in Indonesia to promote human rights. The aim of the AHRC works is to create awareness of national and local networks, empowering national and local networks and also empowering and developing human resources of local partners.

Capability and ability to identify fundamental issues of human rights in Indonesia is the key to building awareness in Indonesia. The fundamental problems that exist are obstruction of justice and violence as well as excessive restrictions on freedom and expression of the people in Indonesia.

Since the year of 1999, the AHRC has started the work to advocate and empower human rights in Indonesia. One of the cases advocated by the AHRC was the detention of East Timorese community leader, Xanana Gusmao. In addition, the AHRC is also active voices and put pressure on cases of human rights violations that occurred in Aceh province, including military operations in Aceh and detention of political prisoners.

For international advocacy, one of the major cases advocated by the AHRC is the murder of Munir, a prominent human rights activist in Indonesia. Munir was killed on board of Garuda plane on his way from Jakarta to the Netherlands to attend scholarship.

AHRC has done with various way of advocacy for Munir’s case, together with Munir’s widow, Suciwati, AHRC issued various letters and submission to put pressure on the Indonesian government to prosecute the perpetrators under fair trial principles, the AHRC also urged the government to publish the 2005 Fact Finding Report on Munir murder.

AHRC also produced a documentary movie, called UNJUST, the movie informs about several important figures in Asia, one of which is Munir Said Thalib from Indonesia. The link of documentary film has been circulated to many national and international networks, the movie has been watched by many groups including the media. In addition, AHRC has also facilitated Suciwati, to carry out a series of international campaigns in Hong Kong.

AHRC do believe that the Munir case is momentous for change and reform of the Intelligence Agency and the criminal justice system. This case can be a trigger to heighten public awareness of the weaknesses of the criminal justice system and government’s zero commitment to continue with reformation.

AHRC through its sister organization, the ALRC is also quite active in providing updates related to the Munir case to UN agencies in Geneva Switzerland, the ALRC also submitted evaluation reports through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism for the 2012 and 2017. ALRC provides highlights on several important issues, namely torture, extra-judicial killings, human rights violations in Papua and cases of human rights violations that occurred during the Soeharto era.

Moreover, besides advocate the Munir case, the AHRC is also quite active in advocating other cases such as human rights violations in Papua. AHRC has issued various urgent appeals and various letters to put pressure to the Indonesia government to ensure prosecution and protection for indigenous Papuans and other civilians in Papua who subjected violence and persecution. Besides publish urgent appeal and open letters, the AHRC has also published a report on the genocide in Puncak Jaya, the report has been discussed specifically by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), although there has been no follow-up on the report, but the presence of this report has been discussed among the government, civil society. and military.

Media coverage

In the last five years, some national media such as the Jakarta Globe, the Jakarta Post, Jubi Papua and Kompas News Paper have published some information which issued by AHRC. It shows that AHRC’s publication in Indonesia has become one of media sources and of course contributing to the national discourse and campaign on human rights.

Urgent Appeal

One of the advocacy tools of the AHRC is urgent appeal, since the last 20 years the AHRC has documented hundreds of cases in Indonesia through this urgent appeal mechanism and has received various responses from the government bodies and the National Commission on Human Rights. Cases which published through urgent appeal can be categorized as cases of torture, cases of extrajudicial killings, cases of criminalization of human rights defenders, farmers, fishermen, etc.

On average, the urgent appeal received various responses from the government bodies, especially from the National Commission on Human Rights, the Witness and Victim Protection Agency, the Ombudsman, the National Police Commission and even the Police institutions. For example, in the case Alnoldy Bahari a resident of Gadog village, Cibitung sub-district, Pandeglang Regency, Banten Province. He was reported to the Pandeglang Police Station (Polres Pandeglang) charged with spreading hate speech and racism through his Facebook entries.

In total, 10 to 11 of his Facebook entities, published between 2016 and 2017, were taken as evidence. In this case, Judicial Commission sent a special letter to the AHRC informs that the Judicial Commission has received AHRC letter and conducted trial monitoring of the Alnoldy case in Serang district court.

This essay also notes some important achievement of the urgent appeal, some cases have received important responses from the Directoratee General of Law and Human Rights (Dirjen HAM), the Directorate General has sent letters to military and police institutions, following urgent appeal from the AHRC. For instance, in the case of Novel Baswedan a senior investigator of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), a victims of Acid Attack. On 11 August 2011 the Directorate General has sent urgent letter following AHRC’s urgent appeal to the Chief of National Police, the letter requested the police to investigate and prosecuted the perpetrators of Acid attack against Mr. Novel Baswedan.

Two police officers who allegedly involved in the case of acid attack against Mr. Baswedan has been prosecuted and each of them sentenced for 18 months and two years. The AHRC has put pressure on this matter to the police investigators to dismantle the case and to investigate whether or not the case involving police high commanders.

Besides Mr. Baswedan case, another phenomenal cases that was also responded to by the Directorate General of Law and Human Rights was the case of Niko Hisage, an indigenous Papuan. The AHRC has sent an appeal of torture against Mr. Niko Hisage, committed by army Sergeant Major Lucas and two other army personnel from the sub-district military command of Wamena city. Without any evidence, the military accused Mr. Niko, an indigenous Papuan, of selling three cows belonging to Sergeant Major Lukas. Niko was tortured and forced to confess. Subsequently, the military refused to investigate the case and also refused to compensate the victim. Considering that the victim is a civilian, the police should take over the investigation process; as of now however, the police have yet to investigate, leaving the perpetrators to walk free.

In this case, the Directorate General issued a letter based upon urgent appeal of the AHRC and requested the Commander of Military Command of Papua province to investigate and dismantle the case.

Contributing to the Law Reform

The AHRC, has also contributed to the development of national discussion on law reform, in particular reforming the Code of Criminal Procedure. Especially during the last six months, during the COVID 19 pandemic, the AHRC has held a series of online discussions with various partners consisting of human rights organizations and groups of victims of human rights violations.

Activities carried out focus on increasing public awareness in Indonesia regarding Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) Number 16 to strengthen the justice system, reduce cases of torture, extra-judicial killing, enforced disappearances and all forms of violence and human rights violations in Indonesia.

The AHRC has held discussions with victims (survivors), human rights defenders and public lawyers in Indonesia. The focus of the discussion was to identify issues of legal reform, particularly reform of the Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP) No. 8 of 1981 which is the legacy of the former dictator President Suharto.

The first discussion conducted with Dr. Herlambang Perdana Wiratraman, Dr. Herlambang focused on the practice of unfair trial in Indonesia, in particular cases which conducted by the police officers in Indonesia. Subsequently, the AHRC also organized series of webinar discussion with human rights lawyers from Jakarta Legal Aid, Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation, survivor of 1965 massacre, labor activist who were prosecuted under the artcile of Criminal Defamation. Moreover, the AHRC also conducted lecturer with the law school, the lecture focuses on the relation between SDGs 16 and violence as well as obstruction of justice contribute to poverty in Indonesia.

The AHRC also translated to English the 138-pages of the latest bill of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The last draft issued by the Indonesian government in 2012 is only available in Indonesian. AHRC also disseminated content of the bill to the international community, this is important so that the international community knows and can follow the progress of the reform and what should be reform in the new bill of the Code of Criminal Procedure the Criminal Procedure.

The AHRC believes that various works and engagement in Indonesia will contribute to the development of judiciary mechanism.

Judiciary should become the main concern and the main priority for all civil society and human rights groups in Indonesia. Development of awareness should contribute to social energy and the energy should be able to change and repair the defect of criminal justice system, should end violence and should be able to fight against obstruction of justice, because we are all should be aware that those problem contribute to poverty and poverty contribute to victimize the victims.


[1] ALRC is sister organization of the AHRC, works toward the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institution in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions.