INDONESIA: Criminal justice reforms and human rights accountability urgently needed

An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) 
Palais Wilson 
52 Rue Des Pâquis 
CH-1201 Geneva

Fax : +41 22 917 9012/0213

Dear Mr. Al Hussein

INDONESIA: Criminal justice reforms and human rights accountability urgently needed

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a regional human rights organization in Asia, welcomes you on your visit to the Republic of Indonesia as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, from 4 to 7 February 2018. We expect that your visit will be meaningful and useful for the development and accountability of human rights in Indonesia.

Indonesia is a State party to the key international treaties on human rights: The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Therefore, the government of Indonesia has obligations to comply with the provisions of these treaties, and the government should ensure its policies and regulations are not against or in violation of the treaties.

Despite Indonesia’s ratification of key human rights instruments however, human rights violations occur widely, while accountability and rule of law remain weak. The criminal justice system has not yet become part of the solution for justice seekers, particularly for victims of human rights violations and their families.

The AHRC would like to highlight here major human rights problems facing Indonesia; since political reform in 1998, the pattern and form of violations have not changed, with past human rights abuses still unaddressed, torture widely occurring, human rights defenders still being targets of attack and murder, minority religions facing serious discrimination, and freedom of expression under serious threat with the Electronic Information and Transaction Law (ITE).

Past human rights abuses: From 2003 until today, we note that seven cases of past human rights abuses remain stagnant in the Attorney General’s Office (AG). These seven cases are: 1# Student shootings in Trisakti and Semanggi 1998-1999; 2# Enforced disappearances of student activists 1997-1998; 3# May tragedy 13-15 May 1998; 4# Talangsari massacre 6-7 February 1989; 5# 1965-1966 massacre; 6# Mysterious shooting 1981-1983; 7# Wasior and Wamena Papua 2001-2003. The AG is reluctant to further investigate the final inquiry report of these cases submitted by the National Commission on Human Rights. Without clear reason, the AG prefers to bring all of these cases to a non-judicial mechanism, such as a reconciliation mechanism without clear standards of justice and truth. Meanwhile, President Joko Widodo remains silent on the issue, despite promising to address past abuses at the beginning of the presidential election. In fact, over the two years of his presidency, President Widodo has shown no interest in addressing the impunity of past abuses. Rather, he has appointed alleged perpetrators of past abuses to be his cabinet members.

Torture: Torture still occurs widely in Indonesia, mostly committed by police officers, military officers and prison guards. The AHRC has noted that torture committed by police mostly occurs during police examination processes and pre-detention; in other words, police investigators are still using torture to obtain forced confessions. The case of torture against three suspects of motorcycle theft which occurred in Jakarta Metropolitan Police in 2017 is a clear example of this. The police investigators illegally arrested, detained and tortured three suspects to confess to stealing a motorcycle. Another cause of police torture is revenge, as seen in the case of Mr. Saldi Hermanto, a journalist in Timika papua. He was attacked by the police officers after he criticized the police on his Facebook wall. There are also torture cases committed by the military, particularly in Papua. Mr. Niko Hisage was tortured on 22 June 2017 by Army Sergeant Major Lucas and two other army personnel. Another example is the torture and extortion case against Mr. Muhammad Ridwan, alias Deded. The situation occurred last year in Padang prison Class IIA, West Sumatera Province. Ridwan had been stripped naked, beaten and locked up in a dark room on the 3rd floor of the prison.

The AHRC thus reiterates that Indonesia needs serious legal reform, in particular accountability for punishment against torture cases. The amendment of Indonesia’s Penal Code has not finished in over a decade; the drafting process remains very slow. We need to ensure that the drafting committee includes a punishment of torture in the new penal code.

Human Rights Defenders under serious risk: The AHRC notes that human rights defenders remain unprotected, with the parliament reluctant to continue the drafting process of the special law on protection of HRDs. We note that human rights violations mostly target HRDs who advocate environment, land rights and anti-corruption cases. Mr. Sukma Hidayat (38) for instance, an-anti corruption activist, in Palembang, South Sumatera Province, was attacked with acid while advocating a corruption case. We also note the murder case of Mr. Jopi Teguh Lasmana Peranginangin (39), an environmental activist, who was killed by members of the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion (Yon Thaifib Marinir TNI AL).

HRDs are also victims of fabricated cases; they are criminally charged to punish and stop their advocacy efforts. In the case of environmentalist Mr. Budi Setiawan, the judges of Banyuwangi district court sentenced him to 10 months imprisonment on 23 January 2018. This was related to his advocacy against the mining operation in Tumpang Pitu, Banyuwangi Regency, East Java Province.

Minority religion and belief groups face serious discrimination: The AHRC would like to bring to your attention the failure of the government to address discrimination and violence against minority groups. The Shia congregation from Sampang, Madura still live in a modest apartment since their homes were burned down six years ago. The Ahmadiyya in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara province remain in a refugee camp for over ten years. In both cases, there is little effort conducted by the government to settle the problem. We are also concerned that local governments still produce discriminatory regulations against minority religion groups; West Java province for instance, has 46 local regulations that seriously discriminate against Ahmadiyya and other minority groups. In addition, the Ahmadiyya congregation in Depok, West Java province is prohibited from using the Al Hidayah Mosque in Depok for worship.

Freedom of expression under serious threat: Since the enactment of Law number 19 of 2016 on Electronic Information and Transaction Law (ITE), the AHRC has noted many cases of human rights activists being summoned and charged under article 27 (3) of the law, with a maximum sentence of four years imprisonment and penalty IDR 750,000,000 (Seven Hundred and Fifty Million Rupiah). A recent case is the charges against two leaders of Danamon Bank Labour Union in Jakarta. The chairperson and the secretary general of the Union were detained after organizing a peaceful protest and circulating a video speech of the chairperson. They were detained for 17 days, before being recently released. In another case, the Jakarta Metropolitan police summoned human rights activists who delivered a statement on TV about the slow progress of the investigation into the acid attack on Mr. Novel Baswedan. It seems the police prefer to summon activists, rather than focus on the acid attack.

It is important that government bodies, particularly the police, develop standards and guidelines on the implementation of the ITE law, to ensure that it is not in violation of human rights standards, specifically the right to freedom of expression and opinion. The ITE law should not be wrongfully interpreted; and nor should it be a draconian law endangering the future of human rights and democracy in Indonesia.

The AHRC also respectfully requests the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to see and learn further about various human rights violations occurring in Papua (currently Papua and West Papua provinces). We note some serious examples: 1#. Measles and malnutrition in Asmat regency, where nearly 100 children have died due to a lack of health facilities and the failure of the government in developing Papua. We also note that there is a problem on the implementation of the Special Autonomy law number 21 of 2001. Since it was enacted over 16 years ago, the situation in Papua remains the same, particularly for local indigenous Papuans living in remote areas.

Moreover, other serious human rights violations such as torture and extrajudicial killings still occur in Papua, such as the torture of Albert Nawipa (15), a junior high school student, who was abducted, tortured by three Police Officers in Potikelek Market in Wamena and subsequently hospitalized. The police accused him of attacking a dancing show in Potikelek. Another example is the case of brutal shooting and violence committed by the Paniai Police Mobie Brigade. It was carried out against local indigenous Papuans in Oneibo, South Tigi District, Deiyai Regency, Papua on 1 August 2017. The Paniai shooting of December 2014, in which security forces shot to death five students and injured 17 others, has still not been investigated or prosecuted. Although the investigation team for Paniai started its work on 1 May 2016, the military and police have not shown any seriousness or commitment to cooperate with the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).

One of the main problems in Papua is the lack of accountability of law enforcement officials and also weaknesses of the criminal justice institutions. Furthermore, massive and frequent human rights violations in Papua are caused by the security approach taken, and the Government has been reluctant to evaluate and audit the present Security Forces in Papua.

We would also respectfully request you to pay attention to the development of human rights in Aceh province. The local Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Aceh province has been inaugurated and recently has started its work. We do hope that the UN can monitor and strengthen the TRC. The Commission will be dealing with past human rights abuses that occurred in Aceh, in particular during Military Operation Area (DOM) 1989 to 1998 and Military of Emergency in 2003. While it is a local level Commission, the human rights violations that occurred in Aceh cannot be separated from the central government in Jakarta, as the policy behind these violations comes directly from the central government as well as military and police.

Lastly, the AHRC hopes you will consider the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), which seems to be weakening in past years. None of the gross violations of human rights cases have been successfully prosecuted before the human rights court, as regulated under Law number 26 of 2000. The Commission should not merely be documenting and reporting cases, but in fact should be able to ensure and develop proper communication with other institutions to bring gross violations of human rights cases to the human rights court. The government and the parliament should seriously consider enhancing the mandate and function of the Commission, and amending and strengthening Law number 26 of 2000.

Your attention to the above situation of human rights in Indonesia is much appreciated, and we look forward to your meaningful interventions while in the country.

Yours Sincerely,

Bijo Francis
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong