INDONESIA: Two years under Widodo and rights protection still weak

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission on the occasion of Human Rights Day

Commemorating Human Rights Day every December 10 reminds us of the importance of human rights protection, which is still lacking in Indonesia. In the last two years, under President Joko Widodo’s administration, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has observed major human rights violations continuing to occur in Indonesia. These violations have denied basic rights, such as the right to life, right not to be tortured, and right to liberty. Land conflict and land confiscation have remained significant problems in Indonesia, with no effective mechanism to address the problem. The AHRC notes that land conflict has resulted in numerous human rights violations, for instance brutal shootings, forced evictions, and arbitrary arrest and detention. Finally, to date, 18 years since political reform, there is impunity and light punishment for perpetrators of abuse.

Violations of Basic Rights

In relation to the violation of basic rights, implementation of the death penalty is a major issue. Since 2013, the government of Indonesia, in particular the Attorney General, has executed 19 death row inmates, mostly drug dealers. So far there is no clear reason why President Widodo refused all clemency appeals submitted by the death row inmates. Ironically, there is also an underage death row inmate, Yusman Telaumbanua, alias Ucok (15), who had been sentenced by the judges and is waiting for execution.

Implementation of the death penalty is apparently not equal and impartial, with the government’s effort to reduce and eradicate illegal circulation of drugs in Indonesia. For instance, according to the testimony of drug lord Freddy Budiman, prior to his execution, he had given money to high ranking police officers, high ranking military personnel, and officials at the National Narcotic Board (See AHRC-UAC-101-2016 and AHRC-UAU-017-2016). There is also evidence of the involvement of a police officer of the rank of Senior Adjunct Police Commissioner (AKBP). Unfortunately, the police have yet to show seriousness in uncovering whether or not other senior police officials were involved.

With regard to torture and deprivation of liberty, the AHRC notes that in the last two years such violations have continued without serious effort to address the same. Torture mostly occurs during the police examination process, in order to obtain confessions. For instance, in 2016, Mr. Siyono, a terrorist suspect, was forced to confess and was tortured to death by the Anti-Terror Police Unit (Densus 88). Similarly, Mr. Juprianto and Marianus Oki were both tortured to death to obtain confessions in police custody. In all of these cases, the police have made little progress in investigation.

We also note that implementation of the National Law on Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) has contributed to the deprivation of liberty. For instance, Mr. Dedi Sutanto, was tagged on Facebook concerning allegations of corruption involving a local businessman; then he was arrested and tried before the Medan District Court (See AHRC-UAC-106-2016).

The existence of pre-trial detention in the Indonesian Law of Criminal Procedure (KUHAP) also contributes to the deprivation of liberty. Under the Indonesian Law of Criminal Procedure, the law enforcement agency can detain an accused person for 120 days (Article 29, KUHAP), if the accused is charged with more than nine years imprisonment, and 60 days for a charge less than nine years imprisonment. 

Land Conflict

Land conflict is a serious problem and has caused a high number of human rights violations in Indonesia. Based on data from the Land Reform Commission (KPA), a national NGO documenting land conflict, throughout 2014 there were 472 agrarian conflicts in Indonesia, involving over 2,860,977,07 hectares and 105,887 households. These conflicts, as documented by the KPA, are a direct result of the government’s policies. In 2015, the KPA notes 252 cases of agrarian conflict, with total disputed land reaching 400,430 hectares, involving 108,714 households.

In the last year, the AHRC has noted and reported various cases of land conflict, for instance the Ramunia case in 2015, where the Military committed land confiscation and attacked local farmers in Ramunia, North Sumatera Province (See AHRC-UAC-062-2015).

Besides the Military, the police commit the most frequent human rights violations, for instance the arbitrary arrest and attack against the Tulang Bawang farmers who tried to reclaimed their land (AHRC-UAC-145-2016). Another example is the case of Sukamulya, Majalengka Regency, where police officers attacked and arrested local residents who refused development of an airport (AHRC-UAC-148-2016).

In general, the AHRC’s documentation of human rights violations caused by land conflict shows that the Military and police become dominant actors who commit violations. They are involved in land confiscation, forced eviction, as well as illegal arrest and criminalization. Meanwhile, the government has failed to develop an effective mechanism to resolve the issues. Lack of accountability and bureaucratic problems makes any available mechanisms detrimental to farmers and other justice seekers.

Impunity & Light Punishment

Impunity and light punishment is another serious problem in Indonesia. In the last two years, President Widodo has promoted and appointed ministers to his cabinet who were involved in past human rights abuses. Retired Army General Wiranto for instance, was appointed as Minister of Politics, Law, and Security (Menkopolhukam), even though he was allegedly involved in the case of student shootings in Trisakti and Semanggi 1998, as well as crimes against humanity in East Timor during the 1999 Referendum. President Widodo also appointed retired Army General Ryamizard Ryacudu as Minister of Defence, despite his alleged involved in the military operation in Aceh in 2003.

Furthermore, judicial practice in the country is to impose only light punishment on perpetrators of human rights violations. In the torture and murder of environmental activist Salim Kancil (see AHRC-UAC-130-2015 and AHRC-UAU-013-2016), the conspirator was only sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, whereas the penal code allows for life imprisonment. The judges also failed to uncover the mastermind behind the case.

Another example of light punishment is the case of enforced disappearance of Dedek Khairuddin in Medan, North Sumatera Province (see AHRC-UAC-045-2015). The Navy personnel involved were only sentenced for one year, and without any further investigation to determine if any others were responsible.

Special Message for the Government

The AHRC thus urges the Indonesian government to reform the country’s law enforcement as well as the national law. In particular, the government should ensure the continuation of legal and judicial reform. Legal audits should be conducted and all regulations should be brought in line with human rights and democracy. The government should show its seriousness to investigate and prosecute human rights violations and abuse of power without any distinction and undue delay.

The government should also develop an effective mechanism to address land conflict and provide adequate remedy for victims and their families. Finally, the government should seriously evaluate the involvement of police and Military in the case of land conflicts.