INDONESIA: Acquittal verdict of Haris and Fatia is a victory for the freedom of expression

(Hong Kong, January 16, 2024)

The Panel of Judges at the East Jakarta District Court has issued an acquittal verdict regarding the case of criminalisation against Ms. Fatia Maulidiyanti (the Director of the Commission for the Disappearances and Victims of Violence [KontraS] for the 2020-2023 period) and Mr. Haris Azhar (the Founder of the LOKATARU Foundation) on Monday, January 8, 2024. These organisations work for human rights in the scope of civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights.

The judgment is good news amidst the recent phenomenon of the collapse of democracy under the administration of President Joko Widodo which was marked by the weakening of supervisory institutions, the dismantling of the Constitutional Court, the emergence of dynastic politics and various indications and potential political intervention in the General Election (Pemilu) 2024.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) considers that this decision is a message to all elements of the society that there is still hope for civil liberties and that we are not afraid to continue to speak out by conveying criticism of the Government.

The AHRC appreciates the judgment of the Panel of Judges which was issued on Monday, January 8, 2024, considering that in the decision, the Judges acknowledged several things such as the fact that there was a conflict of interest by Mr. Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan (known as LBP), the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, regarding mining companies in Papua.

This fact can be seen from the business exploration of LBP’s subsidiary Company, namely Tobacom Del Mandiri along with the Madinah Qurrota Ain Company and the West Wits Mining Company. In the trial process, it was proven that LBP was the beneficiary owner (BO), because every year, he received the Company’s financial reports, so it was impossible not to know of or agree to business exploration in Papua.

Unfortunately, the Public Prosecutor, through his official releases and statements, has submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court (SC [Mahkamah Agung]) regarding the acquittal of Fatia and Haris.

Prakash Mohara, the Executive Director of the AHRC, stated:The judgment proves that there is strong solidarity between the civil society in Indonesia. This decision is clearly a victory for the freedom of expression, where Indonesia, since enacting the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law, has criminalised many human rights defenders, including environmental activists. Even though the prosecutor filed a cassation, the Judges at the SC must still adhere to the principle of the freedom of expression so that no more activists are criminalised for voicing critical voices against legal violations committed by the Government.”

Additionally, he stated: “The decision can actually be an example to immediately stop cases of criminalisation that are also experienced by other activists in Indonesia.”

Furthermore, responding to this decision, he said: “It should be used as a momentum for all law enforcement officials to immediately evaluate their performance. Considering the many incidents of the criminalisation of environmental activists, in the end, they were acquitted by the Panel of Judges, as was the case experienced by Mr. Jumhur Hidayat, an Indonesian activist.”

Therefore, considering the above mentioned facts, the AHRC demands that the Indonesian SC consistently apply the principle of fair trial in examining the appeal file submitted by the public prosecutor on the case of Haris and Fatia.

The AHRC also call for the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders to monitor the trial process and ensure that the Court applies a fair trial, the rule of law and equality before the law.