INDONESIA: One year later, protection of human rights has yet to become policy of Widodo government

October 2015 marked one year of Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and Vice President Jusuf Kalla’s administration, since being sworn into office on 20 October 2014. On the occasion of this milestone, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and its local partner the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) reviews the government’s performance, particularly regarding the fulfillment, protection and advancement of human rights as obligated under the 1945 Indonesian Constitution (UUD 1945).

Up until the first anniversary of the Jokowi-Kalla administration, the government issued several documents containing policies on human rights promotion and protection, including the Nawacita, the National Mid Term Development Plan (known as RPJMN) 2015-2019, and the Presidential Decree No. 75 of 2015 on the National Action Plan on Human Rights (RANHAM) 2015-2019. There are several facts and indicators however, that render these documents unable to contribute to the protection of human rights.

Over the past year, we have recorded a number of human rights violations that have tainted the Jokowi government, including threats to human rights defenders working on corruption and environmental issues, as well as acts of violence such as torture, and fabricated cases. KontraS has also noted a number of violent altercations regarding land rights, land grabbing and environmental damages caused by actors in the mining and the plantation sector. Violent acts also continue to be perpetrated in Papua.

In all the cases documented, poor law enforcement and absence of justice are key concerns. In fact, nearly all the cases ended with an “absence of justice”. In cases where the legal process was followed, it was biased in favor of the perpetrator. With regard to economic, cultural and social rights, while the government and President repeatedly talk about investment, citizen safety is rarely raised, as in the murder of human rights defender Salim Kancil in East Java.

Rather than through official avenues such as effective policy implementation and the courts, the government simply uses discourse via the media to address these issues. This is underlined in the government and the President’s indecisiveness in dealing with past human rights abuses, particularly the seven cases that remain unresolved within the Attorney General’s Office, as well as the case of Munir.

The Attorney General has repeatedly made statements that do not support victims and takes no concrete action to address past abuses. Law enforcement seldom protects civilians and is biased towards the government and private sector.

In fact, one year of President Widodo’s administration culminates in the stronger position of the perpetrators of human rights violations—the police, military, and private sector. The police aggressively arrest, detain and fabricate charges against civilians and activists, while the military has intruded into the civilian sphere, from guarding airports to structuring ‘family planning’. Moreover, the Defense Ministry has initiated the ‘defending state program’, as a new form of military service.

In conclusion, we posit that the National Mid-term Development Plan serves as mere rhetoric for meetings between bureaucrats. Without serious action to improve law enforcement and the justice process, human rights violations will remain rampant in Indonesia. The government must do more than symbolic grants of clemency to Eva Bande and five other political prisoners in Papua. Meanwhile, the human rights situation in Papua is deteriorating, with many agrarians and environmental activists and civilian actors threatened.

Summary of Human Rights Violations under President Widodo’s Administration

Lack of protection of civil and political rights

Indonesia is a state party to a number of key international human rights mechanisms which make unequivocally clear the importance of protecting civil and political rights, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture. As a signatory to these international mechanisms, the government has the obligation to ensure the protection of civil and political rights to all citizens without exception. Moreover, Indonesia has a number of issues in which it must address as outlined in the concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee in 2013. Over the last year, KontraS has recorded several human rights issues including the following:

Torture as common practice
Over the last year, torture and inhuman treatment has been a serious problem and the National Police, penitentiary officers and the Indonesian Military have been the primary perpetrators of these violations. Based on KontraS’ data from individual complaints, investigations, and media sources, we have found as many as 35 acts of torture and other inhumane treatments by penitentiary officers, as many as 15 specific cases, while the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) is involved in a further nine cases. KontraS also noted as many as 25 canings performed by the local government in Aceh. While the number of deaths due to torture stands at 16 people, 262 people were injured and seven others were affected by violations such as sexual harassment, intimidation and various other forms of human rights violations.

Death penalty
The Government executed 14 death row inmates in January and May 2015 including 12 foreign citizens and two Indonesians. The death penalty is used by the government in the name of law enforcement; however, the national trend on death penalty is related to the lack of accountability in law enforcement mechanisms, which makes the death penalty the most severe punishment the government can legally sanction. The death penalty is used in cases of murder, terrorism and drug offences. In December 2014, the President refused to grant 64 clemency applications to death penalty prisoners related for drug offences. The President is using the argument from the National Narcotics Agency data that states that 4.5 million people are in rehabilitation, while 40 to 50 people die every day because of drug addictions. However, this data is questionable since the methodology used by BNN is ambiguous and produces unreliable data. Recently, a death penalty sentence was handed down to an underage child, Yusman Telaumbanua. The case of Yusman is a dreadful example of criminalization without proper and fair legal process.

Freedom of religion and belief
Quantitatively, there are fewer incidents of violation of freedom of religion and belief than in previous years. In the last one year, we noted at least 10 human rights violations on freedom of religion and belief. The form and pattern are similar with previous years, including the prohibition, destruction and closing of places of worships, intimidation, threats to particular religious groups, and inaction by the police.

Several notable cases, such as the burning of a mosque in Tolikara and the shooting of Gidi church members, cannot be separated from the slow response of the local police despite being informed of potential conflicts.

Other notable cases were the forced closure of the Ahmadiyya place of worship in Tebet, South Jakarta, and the assault, destruction and explosion of a church in Aceh Singkil. This case cannot be separated from the discriminatory policy of the Aceh local government related to the demolition of the church, provoking violent acts by intolerant groups.

Additionally, one year of the current administration has failed to resolve cases inherited from the previous government, including the relocation of Shia in Sampang regency and Ahmadiyya in West Nusa Tenggara province, and the lack of political willingness to review the discriminative laws and regulations (blasphemy law) that are still in place today.

Criminal charges against freedom of expression 
Generally, the main pattern of violation of freedom of expression consists of the restriction, criminalization, and excessive response from the police. The case of M. Arsyad for instance, who was arrested by the Police Headquarters for allegedly insulting the President through social media and is therefore subject to UU ITE. The state also turns a blind eye to the violent acts undertaken by mass organizations or thugs.

We recorded at least 12 cases of freedom of expression violations in the first year of the Jokowi-Kalla administration. The 1965 massacre and Communist issue remain sensitive topics. The movie screening of The Act of Silent was forcibly disbanded in several cities and universities, such as Padang and Surabaya in February to April 2015. In addition, the government through the Police Institution banned ‘Lentera’ magazine produced by the student press of Satya Wacana Christian University, which raised the topic on mass murder in 1965 and the anti-communist party.

Furthermore, we also noted 48 demonstrations in response of the increasing price of subsidized fuel, which led to violence by police officers. A number of violations occurred in various forms: the forced dispersion of protestors, clashes, persecution, intimidation, destruction, arrests, and the shooting of demonstrators.

On the other hand, restrictions on the freedom of expression are also extreme, such as the forced dispersal and arrest of students in Papua in a series of peaceful actions undertaken in April 2015. No less than 200 students were arrested after local police forced the students to disperse. Other cases occurred in Karawang, West Java, when police violently dispersed peaceful demonstrations conducted by 1200 local farmers, with some farmers suffering injuries from rubber bullets.

Human rights violations in the mining and agriculture sector

We currently face the ongoing and frequent occurrence of human rights violations in the mining and agriculture sector, which is extremely concerning. Violations include the illegitimate and unlawful seizure of land through ‘land grabbing’, which has been perpetrated by both the government and private actors.

In relation to mining and agricultural policy, President Widodo will continue to implement the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development (MP3EI), a policy that was implemented under the previous administration. Consequently, disputes relating to land and natural resources have become inevitable, even after the establishment of The Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry under Widodo’s leadership. As yet, there is no mechanism for conflict and dispute resolution which can be enforceable in the mining and agrarian sectors. Since the Widodo Government came to power a year ago, there have been 15 high level cases in the mining and agrarian sectors which have attracted media and public attention.

Violations against human rights in these sectors includes acts of murder and the deprivation of liberty of environmental and agrarian activists, repressive actions taken by police and military officers in dealing with land disputes, forced dispersion of activists which violates their freedom of assembly, and assaults against protesting farmers and indigenous people.

One such case is the murder of Jopi Teguh Lesmana Perangin-angin, an activist for the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN). The sadistic murder and inhuman acts committed against Salim Kancil and Tosan in Selok Awar-Awar Village, Pasirian is another such case. These activists were persecuted for opposing mining operations in the Lumajang District of East Java Province. Previous acts of gross violence were also committed against Indra Pelani, an environmental activist from Jambi who was murdered by the private security officers ofPT WKS, a private company.

Unclear plan for reconciling past human rights abuses

Currently, at least seven cases have been handled by the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) related to past human rights violations. Komnas HAM recommended further investigation be undertaken by the Attorney General into the Trisakti, Semanggi I and II cases of May 1998, Petrus killings (mysterious shootings) 1981-1984, Talangsari 1989, 1965-1966 tragedy, Wasior-Wamena 2001-2003, and the forced disappearances of activists in 1997-1998.

Prior to his election, President Widodo had made a number of political promises (Nawacita) to prioritize the investigation and reconciliation of past gross human rights violations. Despite this, during the course of his first year in office, there have been no concrete steps or seriousness shown by his government in actually reconciling these seven cases.

Contrary to his statements, President Widodo has in fact seemed to neglect the institutions that enforce human rights, leaving the Attorney General and Komnas HAM less effective. President Widodo has showed no effort to seek reconciliation for cases that remain stalled in government red tape. Instead, President Widodo has by omissions, allowed the AGO and Komnas HAM to take the initiative to form the Reconciliation Commission, which was later coined the “Truth-seeking Commission”. This has violated the mandate of the two institutions as parties that investigate and prosecute cases of gross human rights violations.

No reform in security sector

Security sector reform (SSR) is manifested within the constitution and legislation in order to increase the professionalism of actors within the defense and security sectors so they do not engage in behaviors that could violate the law and human rights.

Unfortunately, President Widodo’s Government has no clear agenda related to security sector reform. Under President Widodo, it seems the military was “forced” to go deeper into areas without proper regulations and in a manner that is prohibited under Law No. 34 of 2004 concerning Indonesian Military. Prominent examples of this include the implementation of 31 Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with various ministries and private sector actors. These MoUs are enacted by the Military upon the basis that they are undertaking Operation Other Than War (OMSP). The military has now become involved in civilian life carrying out security functions based upon the mandates of these MoUs. Unfortunately, civil authorities both at the government and parliamentary level are yet to implement amendments and evaluation to all the existing MoUs. These MoUs will further undermine the professionalism of the military as an instrument of national defense. If actions are not taken, this situation will set the military back, trapped in a toxic mix of politics and business.

Another controversial policy issued by the government of President Widodo recently is the proposal of the Bela Negara (Defending the State) policy by the Ministry of Defense, which focuses on military discipline rather than comprehensive national defense education.

Meanwhile, some crucial areas of reform have not been recognized or included, such as military justice reform and the curbing of the military industry.

The police on the other hand, have contrarily transformed into an institution fighting against the effort to eradicate corruption through the criminalization of Bambang Widjajanto (Commissioner of KPK – Corruption Eradication Commission), and Abraham Samad (Chairman of the Commission), as well as the KPK investigators, Novel Baswedan, through a scheme of imposing punishment. Overall, there were no fewer than 51 people who have been criminalized by the Criminal Investigation Department (BARESKRIM), because of their duty to fight for the eradication of corruption, including commissioners of the Judicial Commission and ICW activists.

Human rights situation in Aceh and Papua

Aceh and Papua are two important benchmarks for Indonesia while navigating through its democratic transition. Aceh, which managed to emerge from the crisis and a prolonged conflict still leaves much to be desired, especially in the implementation of the Helsinki Agreement of 2005. While Papua is a conflict area that has never been free from human rights abuses and violations, this region has been granted special autonomy status.

Post-conflict areas of Aceh and the conflict area of Papua, were made election priorities in the election campaign of 2014 by the Widodo-Kalla Government. Despite President Widodo having a year to take steps, the human rights situations in both areas is not improving.

In Papua, violence still continues, with brutal acts of violence and shooting carried out by the military and police forces in Paniai on 8 December 2014. As a result of these events, five teenagers were killed and 17 others suffered serious injuries. In addition, a series of similar and violent shootings occurred throughout the year, most prominently the shooting that occurred in Timika, on 28 September 2015, which killed one teenager and wounded four others. Land seizures and destruction of the environment also continues. The development plan for smelters at a number of cement factories and fertilizer production facilities in indigenous areas such as of the Kamoro and Merauke tribes, is a cause for concern.

Meanwhile in Aceh, the Helsinki MoU for Peace in 2005 became the base for Law Number 11 Year 2006 concerning the Aceh Government, which has indeed put an end to the long conflict that ran for 29 years. However, the presence of a peace agreement that has been commemorated for 10 years, still has not been able to reflect a long awaited sense of justice for the victims, families and the public in Aceh.