INDONESIA: Violations is the rule, protection is the exception 


On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2012, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) publishes its annual report on the State of Human Rights in Indonesia in 2012. The full report is now available for download at 

In the middle of 2012, Indonesia had its state of human rights reviewed by the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism at a Human Rights Council Session. On this occasion, the government’s representative proudly claimed that his country ‘remains steadfast in respecting and upholding freedom of religion, association and expression’. He further declared that the Indonesian government ‘remains committed to ensuring that the mass media and labour unions, political parties and civil society organisations continue to flourish in freedoms’, giving the false and misleading impression to the international community on the real state of human rights situation within the country. During the course of 2012, the AHRC has documented various types of human rights violations attributable to the government. In this year’s annual report, the AHRC noted at least three most significant human rights issues within the country: violence triggered by conflicts over natural resources; the increased persecution and prosecution towards religious minority groups; and the escalated violence in the Papuan provinces.

Towards the end of 2011, a clash between the police and civilians in Mesuji resulted in the death of a person and the injury of seven others. The clash was rooted in the long conflict between the local villagers and the companies conducting business in their area, PT Barat Selatan Makmur Investindo (PT BSMI) and PT Lampung Interpertiwi (PT LIP). Mesuji was not an isolated case as proved by the prevalence of such conflicts in other parts in Indonesia – mostly in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi as noted by local human rights organisation ELSAM. The conflicts are generally rooted in the failure of the government and companies to consult with and ask for the consent of the community — despite the fact that the community is affected by the companies’ activities and that they are the legitimate owners of the land.

Instead of being improved, the protection of religious minorities and their rights has been deteriorating during 2012. In addition to the continuing denial by the government to the Christian communities’ right to freely manifest their belief and establishing their own place of worship, physical attacks and intimidation against the Ahmadiyyah and the Shia Muslims dominated the human rights discourse during the year. Instead of taking adequate responses to punish those persecuting and discriminating the religious minority groups, the Indonesian government has been openly taking side on the majority groups if not being silence and failing to take any adequate response. Criminal investigation of violence directed against minorities hardly ever take place but individuals were sentenced to punishment for peacefully expressing their belief that happens to be different with the mainstream public. The leader of Shia community in Sampang, Tajul Muluk, was sentenced to a two year term of imprisonment for his dissenting belief regarding the five pillars of Islam and six pillars of Islamic faith. An atheist, Alexander Aan, was sentenced to two and a half years of imprisonment for ‘disseminating information aimed at inflicting religious hatred’ where in fact all he has done was posting offensive-yet not-inciting materials on a social network website.

The deterioration of human rights situation in the country can also be concluded from the escalation of violence taking place in the Papuan provinces. Mysterious shootings and bombings took place with the government pointing its fingers at activists in favour of independence, leading to the arbitrary and excessive measures were taken towards the activists. In the mid of 2012, a leader of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) Buchtar Tabuni was arrested whereas the secretary general of the organisation was shot to death by police officers. The AHRC noted that security officers open fire at the Papuans not only in politically-related cases but also out of insignificant fighting with civilians, petty crime, or revenge.

The AHRC recognises that Indonesia had taken several steps in 2012 which imply the government’s acceptance on international human rights standards. During the course of the year, for instance, the Indonesian government ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW) and the two optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), marking 2012 as the year of international human rights instruments for the country. While welcoming such ratifications, the AHRC is calling for the Indonesian government to take more concrete measures to address human rights violations within the country. Ratification of human rights instruments and the enactment of laws alone will not stop torture, reduce the rate of religious based violence or make the life of communities whose land grabbed by companies to be more dignified.

As in previous years, impunity remains a big issue that proper investigation over human rights abuses and the adequate punishment should be in the government’s list of priorities. The AHRC is specifically concerned with the government and the Attorney General Office’s rejection over the National Human Rights Commission’s (Komnas HAM) reports on the Mysterious Shootings in the 1980s and the abuses directed at ‘the communists’ in 1965-1966. The AHRC has also noted that torture is still not a punishable crime and adequate punishments towards state officials involved in such practice is rare. In the absence of law criminalising torture, the Indonesian government needs to at least ensure that physical assault should be more severely punished when it is perpetrated by state officials.

Given above, the AHRC is recommending the government to take, inter alia, the following measures:

  • To ensure the principle of free, prior and informed consent is respected by local government and companies whose activities potentially affect the life of surrounding communities. The government has to provide legal guarantee and recognition on communal right to land and definition of indigenous people under its law has to be amended in accordance with international human rights standards, respecting the principle of self-identification;
  • To withdraw laws and regulations discriminatory towards religious minority groups. These laws include the 1965 Blasphemy Law, the Ministerial Regulations on building houses of worship, and the Ministerial Decree banning the Ahmadiyyah;
  • To include religious discriminatory motive as an aggravating factor in punishing those committing religious-based violence and intimidation;
  • To ensure the neutrality of law enforcement officials in dealing with conflicts between villagers and companies, as well as in the issues of religious-based violence;
  • To ensure the AGO accepts and follows up the reports and recommendations on Mysterious Shootings and 1965-1966 human rights abuses;
  • To criminalise the practice of torture, in accordance with the mandate of the UN CAT. The AHRC calls the Indonesian Parliament and government to expedite the revision process of the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code. The Indonesian government needs also to establish a set of safeguards against torture, as recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur against Torture;
  • To revise laws unreasonably limiting right to freedom of expression – such as the Law on Electronic Information and Transaction – in accordance with international human rights standards.

The full report is now available for download at