INDONESIA: Stop and Investigate Repression and Intimidation Against Civilians During the ASEAN Summit

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) supports the statement of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)  condemning all forms of repression and intimidation against civil society during the preparation and implementation of the ASEAN Summit  in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara Province (NTT). Based on the information we received, one of the cases was the alleged criminalization attempt by West Manggarai Police officers against four Labuan Bajo residents, they are Mr. Ladislaus Jeharun, Mr. Dionisius Parera, Mr. Viktor Frumentus, and Mr. Dominikus Safio Sion by the West Manggarai Police on May 6 2023. They were summoned by the police concerning allegation of incitement. Meanwhile, journalists who report on the voice of the people become victims of hacking and intimidation. Most recently, four Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) activists also experienced hacking.

Based on the information we gathered, the summons to the four residents was due to a demonstration that the local residents wanted to carry out. The reasons/demands behind a number of residents holding the demonstration are because until now the right to compensation related to the houses and land of residents who are suspected of having been evictioned for the construction of the Labuan Bajo-Golo Mori road ahead of the ASEAN Summit has not been received.

We regret that the action that will be held by a number of residents actually responded excessively by the police by summoning a number of residents on charges of alleged criminal acts of incitement. The police should be able to see this problem as a whole by looking at the construction of demonstrations by residents demanding the right to eviction compensation as part of freedom of expression.

We consider that the allegation of the incitement article as stated in the summons is of course very problematic. Because, in that article 2 there is an element of inciting to commit a crime. Even though demonstrations are legal and constitutional actions and are guaranteed by statutory instruments, for example Law no. 9 of 1998 concerning freedom of expression in public. In addition, voicing opinions related to the obligation to compensate for the land that was confiscated is a form of maintaining life and increasing the standard of living guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Looking back, the various forms of repression that existed cannot be separated from the statement by the Chief Police of  NTT Regional Police who banned the action at the end of April 2023. Thus, that the existing attacks from the police on the community can be classified as systematic violations.

Furthermore, the delay in providing compensation for evictions by the state has resulted in various forms of multi-layered violations of the basic rights of citizens, including the right to a right to live properly, the right to peaceful and secure, and the right to a proper job. Furthermore, this action not only violates the human rights guaranteed in the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia and Law Number 39 of 1999 concerning Human Rights, but also the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which the government has ratified through Law Number 11 of 2005.

This is not the first time the repression has been committed against the residents of Labuan Bajo. Previously, there were cases of arbitrary arrests of Labuan Bajo residents who blocked the road to refuse force eviction for a national strategic project. The allegation of arbitrary arrest experienced by Mr. Paulinus Jek, a resident of Racang Buka, because of his effort to stop an excavator which will be conducting force evictions on his land.

Moreover, repressive methods as part of the security approach at major events also occurred in the midst of the G20 at the end of 2022. At that time, excessive methods were used by security forces such as the use of facial recognition, spying, forcibly dissolving discussions, blocking activist activities and stigma against groups that refused. Ironically, the group that refused was also stigmatized as rioters. This is of course very dangerous if it continues and at the same time continues paradoxical practices. On the one hand, Indonesia wants to improve its image in the eyes of the international community, but on the other hand, it continues to silence people’s rights. The decline in democracy is again evident from the Indonesian democracy index published by Freedom House in 2023 which shows a decrease from the previous year from 59 to 58 point.

The situation is getting worse marked by digital attacks targeting against journalists who report on the other side of the ASEAN Summit. Media, which collaborates with the Mulatuli Project in making a report on a case where a road was made for a resident’s land, was hacked. This action is a clear violation of press freedom. In addition, the hack that was directed at four JATAM activists was not only a violation of the right to privacy, but also a serious threat to the work of human rights defenders.

Based upon above-mentioned situation, the AHRC urges that:

First, the security forces stop all forms of repression and intimidation of citizens at the ASEAN Summit and other major agendas in the future.

Second, the Central Government and related institutions are immediately responsible for fulfilling the obligation to pay compensation to the victims of the evictions.

Third, the security forces to immediately investigate the actors who hacked journalists and the four JATAM activists. The police must find the perpetrators of digital attacks and prosecute them under the fair trial principles in accordance with the provisions of the applicable laws and regulations.