INDONESIA EARLY WARNING: Civil Society under siege


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-14-2001-01
ISSUES: Democracy,

Indonesia’s new democracy is facing its greatest threat to date. 

While the world’s attention is on whether President Wahid will stay in office or not some organisations have taken the opportunity to wipe out the main progressive, democracy-building organisations, openly calling it an \”anti-communist\” purge (even though the organisations may be completely unrelated to communism). 

Organisations that are being targeted include progressive trade unions, political parties, non-governmental organisations and student movements. Organisations attempting to open investigations into the 1965-66 massacre of well over a million persons (which brought Suharto to power) have been targeted in particular. 

These organisations have already closed their offices or are closing them as the \”Anti-Communist Front\” has vowed to destroy their offices and burn their books and documents. The Anti-Communist Front is a new coalition including right wing, religious fundamentalist and militia organisations including: 
– Front of Hizbullah 
– Front Pembela Islam (FPI/Front of Moslem Defender) 
– Ikhwutan Sunnah Waljamaah (lead by Habib Al Absi) 
– Pemuda Pancasila (Pancasila Youth – formed by Suharto’s Golkar party) 
– FKPPI (also formed by Golkar) 
– Laskar Merah Putih (lead by Eurico Guterres, famed for his militia massacres in East Timor) 

This Front is clearly supported, if not organised by elements of the military and supporters of Suharto (including members of the Golkar party). The Front’s activities to date have included: 
– book-burnings in Yogyakarta (Central Java) 
– burning of NGO office, joint statement with regional government calling for dispersal of Democratic People’s Party (PRD), and the suspected disappearance of the local PRD leader in Medan 
– public media statements giving an ultimatum for a sweep and purge of communism, with the proclaimed support of the military 
– delivery of threats and monitoring of NGO offices in Jakarta 


After the fall of Suharto in 1998, civil society began rebuilding, and free trade unions, independent NGOs and a variety of political parties emerged. These organisations have created a lot of pressure to reform the political and legal systems created by Suharto including repeal of the ‘dual function’ (political and military) of the military, the trial of Suharto and investigation into massacres organised by him, the involvement of the military in communal violence, removal of discriminatory legislation, exposing corruption, etc. The military and supporters of Suharto have managed to hold onto power in most spheres, and now that the parliament is in crisis, they have created enough space to try to vilify and close down these progressive organisations that threaten their impunity and power-base. 

The fear is that if the action to destroy the offices and break up the organisations is successful it will put Indonesian civil society back to where it was in Suharto’s time. 


Write to the Chief of Police and the National Human Rights Commission, with a copy to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, urging them to investigate this sweep and implement measures to protect the activists and human rights defenders and enable the normal operation of these democratic organisations. 

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Dear Gen. Bimantoro and Mr. Nababan 

The formation of a new ‘Anti-Communist Front’ by right wing and fundamentalist groups whose aim is to wipe out progressive NGOs, trade unions and political parties poses the greatest threat to Indonesian democracy to date. 

This Front has already begun burning books (in Yogyakarta) and offices of NGOs (in Medan) and effectively evicting NGO staff from their offices through threats to destroy the offices and stand-over tactics (in Jakarta). The leader of the FNPBI trade union in Medan is also missing and grave fears are held for his safety. 

I urge that you act quickly to ensure police protection for the leaders and staff of all affected organisations (including FNPBI, PRD, LMND and SNB) and create conditions to enable the normal operation of the offices of these organisations. I further contend that the newly-established Anti-Communist Front is in fact an anti-democratic body enjoying the support of the some elements in the military and that the National Human Rights Commission and National Police Force have an obligation to oppose their activities in order to maintain democratic freedom in Indonesia. 

Yours sincerely 

CC: UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders 


Gen. Surojo Bimantoro 
National Chief of Police 
Jl. Trunojoyo 
No. 3 Kebayoran Baru 
Jakart Selatan 
Tel: +(6221) 721 8001 
Fax: +(6221) 720 7277 
SALUTATION: Dear Gen. Bimantoro 

Mr. Asmara Nababan 
Secretary General 
Komnas HAM 
Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B Menteng 
Jakarta Pusat 
FAX: (62 21) 392 5227 
SALUTATION: Dear Mr. Nababan 


Ms. Hina Jilani 
Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders 
c/o OHCHR-UNOG, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland 
Fax: 41 22 917 9006 

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-14-2001-01
Countries : Indonesia,
Issues : Democracy,