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Letter to president-elect Joko Widodo Re: Human Rights Concerns in Indonesia
Human Rights Watch - August 28, 2014
Congratulations on your recent election. Human Rights Watch would like to wish you selamat berjuang, good luck, in carrying out your duties as president. We encourage you in particular to bring energy to protecting and promoting human rights in the country, and supporting renewed government initiatives.
Since the late 1980s, Human Rights Watch has worked on human rights issues in Indonesia and provided input to the Indonesian government. With your election victory, you and your new coalition government have an opportunity – and the responsibility – to address continuing human rights concerns in Indonesia. As Indonesia is a party to the major human rights treaties, we urge you to ensure that Indonesia lives up to its international legal obligations.
We write to you with specific recommendations that have important implications for the human rights of Indonesians, namely religious freedom, lack of accountability for abuses by security forces, women's rights, freedom of expression, the situation in Papua, rights of child migrants and asylum seekers, domestic workers, corruption, indigenous land rights, and Indonesia's role at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
We urge you and your government to make these issues a priority. We divided our recommendations on each subject into those which can have near-immediate impact on the human rights situation of large numbers of Indonesians, and those which will require longer-term commitment of political will and capital.
Freedom of religion
Indonesia, as the world's most populous Muslim nation, has a special role to play as a potential world leader on religious freedom. That leadership role would benefit Indonesia and expand its influence as a country that can successfully balance religious diversity with protection of the rights of religious minorities. Your administration has an opportunity and an obligation to the Indonesian people to go beyond the previous government's rhetorical support for religious freedom by enforcing laws that protect religious minorities and prosecuting groups and individuals who seek to deny that right through threats and violence.
Over the last decade, the Indonesian government has often failed to protect members of religious minorities from discrimination and violence. The targets of that abuse include Ahmadis, Bahais, Christians, Shia, and Sufi Muslims, as well as followers of native faiths. The 1965 blasphemy law as well as the 1969 and 2006 decrees on building houses of worship often contributed to this violence. The blasphemy law especially criminalizes the practice of religion that deviates from the central tenets of Indonesia's six officially "protected" religions.
According to the Setara Institute, a non-profit think tank monitoring religious freedom, violent attacks motivated by religious intolerance have increased from 91 cases in 2007 to 220 cases in 2013. The majority of that violence has occurred in West Java, but incidents targeting religious minorities have also occurred in Aceh, West Sumatra, East Java, West Nusa Tenggara, Riau, Lampung, and South Sulawesi.
To address the problem of religious intolerance and related violence, there are four measures that you can undertake shortly after assuming office that will have immediate impact in terms of addressing abuses against religious minorities. We urge your government to actively investigate and prosecute attacks on religious minorities and bolster protection of religious freedom by doing the following:
We are encouraged that during your election campaign, you committed to investigating the arrest, torture, and enforced disappearance of pro-democracy activists by security forces, including at the end of the Suharto regime.
However, there is still widespread impunity for members of the security forces responsible for serious violations of human rights in Indonesia.
While Indonesia has implemented significant reforms to the military in recent years, members of Indonesia's security forces – particularly Detachment 88 and Kopassus – continue to engage in serious abuses. Human Rights Watch research has revealed a pattern of arbitrary detention and ill-treatment – particularly in the two Papuan provinces – and the failure of military courts to investigate adequately or to prosecute alleged serious human rights abuses by military personnel.
In the few military trials for which information is publicly available, military prosecutors brought relatively insignificant charges, and any sentences handed down by military judges have been extremely lenient. For instance, in a 2010 case where soldiers tortured two Papuans for three days in Tingginambut, some of which was captured on film, a military tribunal convicted three soldiers, but sentenced them to terms of only 8 to 10 months.
A bellwether test from the past decade is the case of Munir bin Thalib, a respected human rights advocate murdered on a Garuda Indonesia flight on September 4, 2004. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at that time that finding Munir's murderer is "the test of our history." On December 31, 2008, a Jakarta court acquitted Maj. Gen. Muchdi Purwopranjono, a former deputy in the State Intelligence Agency, of Munir's murder in a trial marred by witness coercion and intimidation. On June 15, 2009, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by state prosecutors of Muchdi's acquittal.
Human Rights Watch understands the difficulties in investigating a killing where there is strong evidence that state intelligence authorities were involved. But there are serious concerns about events in the lead-up to the trial and the quality of the evidence. Witnesses were possibly intimidated into changing their statements, a key witness fled the country, and the prosecution was weak.
Accountability for past abuses in Aceh continues to be elusive. Vice President-elect Jusuf Kalla played a key role in negotiating an end to the conflict in Aceh in 2005, but there is still no serious effort to establish a tribunal to look at crimes committed after the agreement, as required by the 2006 Law on Aceh Governance, or a truth and reconciliation commission. The tribunal was supposed to be in operation by August 31, 2007. Those involved in extrajudicial killings and other serious abuses should be held to account to provide justice for the victims and to deter future violations.
Besides these cases are the literally hundreds of thousands of other victims of Suharto-era violence. Still unaddressed are the mass killings of 1965-66, security force impunity for endemic violations in counterinsurgency operations in East Timor, past crimes in Papua, killings in Lampung, Tanjung Priok, and other prominent cases.
Indonesia has taken an important step by signing the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in September 2010. Under the convention, Indonesia is obligated to investigate alleged disappearances effectively, prosecute those responsible, and provide a proper remedy for victims, including the relatives of disappeared persons.
There are several measures that your government can undertake shortly after taking office that will have immediate impact in addressing the problem of impunity in Indonesia. We urge you to: - Establish an independent and credible investigation of recent allegations that members of the police, including members of Detachment 88, tortured suspected separatists in their custody.
Indonesia has seen a rise in discriminatory regulations against women, ranging from mandatory dress codes – especially for civil servants and female students – to limited evening mobility unless accompanied by their muhrim – fathers, brothers, spouses, or sons. Women civil servants and students who do not follow these regulations face penalties including demotion and expulsion.
The National Commission on Violence Against Women stated in August 2013 that there are 79 regencies where the hijab is mandatory. The mandatory hijab is also imposed on Christian girls in some provinces such as Aceh and West Sumatra. Local governments in Aceh enacted laws that limit women's freedom of expression and movement. In the city of Lhokseumawe, a regulation bans women from straddling motorcycles. Bireun regency has forbidden women from all dancing in public while Meulaboh regency bans women from wearing pants.
Indonesia also needs to take additional measures to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence and female genital mutilation (FGM). The prevalence of FGM and the consequences it has for women's physical and mental health are under-reported. FGM seriously impairs girl's and women's physical integrity and subjects them to abuse of their rights to health, to be free from violence, to life and physical integrity, to non-discrimination, and to be free from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. It is not even clear whether the Health Ministry issued a circular banning the practice of FGM.
We are encouraged that during the election campaign Vice President-elect Kalla promised that if elected he would support a government review of discriminatory bylaws in Indonesia, including the mandatory hijab regulations. We urge you to:
Indonesia has a diverse and lively media, but the right to freedom of expression has been undermined by the use of criminal and civil defamation laws to silence criticism of the government. Criminal defamation charges have been filed against individuals after they held public demonstrations protesting corruption, wrote letters to the editor complaining about fraud, registered formal complaints with the authorities, published news reports about sensitive subjects, and tweeted critical remarks about government officials.
The UN Human Rights Committee, the independent body of experts that interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has said that "defamation laws must be crafted with care to ensure that they... do not serve, in practice, to stifle freedom of expression. All such laws, in particular penal defamation laws, should include such defenses as the defense of truth and they should not be applied with regard to forms of expression that are not, of their nature, subject to verification." Criminal defamation laws have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and work against the public interest by deterring people from speaking out about corruption or other misconduct by public officials.
Criminal defamation investigations and prosecutions can have a dramatic impact on the lives of those accused. Some of those charged with defamation lost their jobs. Others suffered professional setbacks while they endured lengthy prosecutions, some of which lasted for years. Some reported that their personal and professional relationships were strained by the stigma of prosecution or conviction. Some were imprisoned.
Offenses in Indonesia's criminal code such as treason (makar) and "inciting hatred" (haatzai artikelen) are used to suppress peaceful acts of free expression, including demonstrations and acts of flag-rising in Papua and the Moluccas where there are separatist movements. Criminal libel, slander, and "insult" laws are also problematic, as they have been invoked against individuals who have raised controversial issues concerning public officials.
There are two steps that you can undertake shortly after taking office that will have immediate impact in addressing abuses of freedom of expression in Indonesia. We urge you to:
Human Rights Watch recognizes that Papua presents unique governance challenges for your government. The ongoing low-level conflict with the small and poorly organized Free Papua Movement (OPM) places responsibilities on the government to ensure security for the population. However, the security forces are failing to distinguish between violent acts and peaceful expression of political views, which your government should protect. Although flag-raisings and other peaceful expressions of pro-independence sentiment in Papua have been denounced as treasonous, the government's heavy-handed response to these activities has resulted in numerous human rights violations. Your administration has an obligation to keep the population safe while respecting everyone's basic rights.
Over the last three years alone, Human Rights Watch has documented dozens of cases where police, military, intelligence officers, and prison guards have used excessive force when dealing with Papuans exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and association. The government also frequently arrests and prosecutes Papuan protesters for peacefully advocating independence or other political change. As of July 2014, 69 Papuan activists are imprisoned for "treason," according to the nongovernmental prisoner rights advocacy organization Papuan Behind Bars.
The political prisoners include Filep Karma, a civil servant, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for raising the Morning Star flag – a West Papua independence symbol – in December 2004. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that Karma was not given a fair trial in Indonesia and asked the Indonesian government to immediately and unconditionally release him. Indonesia has rejected the UN recommendation.
Human Rights Watch takes no position on the right to self-determination, but we oppose imprisonment of individuals who peacefully express support for self-determination.
Restrictions on access by foreign journalists and human rights monitors to Papua exacerbate a climate where security forces can act with impunity by keeping abuses out of the public eye and making investigations more difficult. The government blocks international media from freely reporting in Papua by limiting access to only those foreign reporters who get special official permission to visit the area. The government rarely approves such applications or indefinitely delays their processing, hampering efforts by journalists and civil society groups to report on breaking events. Two French reporters from Franco-German Arte TV, detained in Papua since August 6, 2014 for "illegal reporting," are the most recent targets of Indonesia's Papua censorship obsession.
There are three measures that you can undertake shortly after taking office that will have immediate impact in addressing the human rights problems in Papua. We urge you to: - End restrictions on access to Papua for independent observers, including international journalists and human rights organizations, so that they can visit Papua without need for specific permission or approval.
An estimated 2.6 million Indonesians, including hundreds of thousands of girls, are employed as domestic workers in other people's households, performing tasks such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, child care, and sometimes working at their employers' businesses. Another estimated two million women migrate abroad as domestic workers in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Middle East.
Within Indonesia, many domestic workers labor 14 to 18 hour days, seven days a week, with no day off and make a fraction of the prevailing minimum wage. Girls are at heightened risk of abuse. Many employers forbid child domestic workers from leaving the house where they work, isolate them from the outside world, and prohibit them from attending school. In the worst cases, girls are physically, psychologically, and sexually abused by their employers or their employers' family members.
Indonesia's labor law, the Manpower Act of 2003, excludes all domestic workers from the basic labor rights afforded to formal workers, such as a minimum wage, overtime pay, an eight-hour workday and 40-hour workweek, weekly day of rest, and vacation. This has a discriminatory impact on women and girls, who constitute the vast majority of domestic workers. This exclusion in the law allows abuse to flourish in domestic work, which is one of the most common sectors for forced labor and trafficking.
Migrant domestic workers face the risk of abuse both at home and abroad. Many prospective domestic workers do not receive accurate or full information during the recruitment process and pay excessive fees that leave them heavily indebted. Those who face abuse while abroad and seek help from Indonesian embassies abroad may spend long periods in overcrowded shelters with little hope of redress.
There are a series of measures that your government can and should do in the longer term to address abuses of the rights of domestic workers, particularly children and migrants. We urge you to:
Migrants and asylum seekers arrive in Indonesia after fleeing persecution, violence, and poverty in Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, and elsewhere and are subject to detention. Indonesia does not provide asylum seekers and migrants a way to challenge their detention. Indonesian law permits up to 10 years of immigration detention.
Each year, hundreds of child migrants are detained in abysmal conditions, without access to lawyers, and sometimes beaten. Others are left to fend for themselves, without any assistance with food or shelter. Unaccompanied migrant children – who travel without parents or other adults to protect them – fall into a legal void. With no government agency responsible for their guardianship, no one responds to their needs. Some children languish in detention, while others are left on the streets.
There is one measure that you can undertake shortly after taking office that will have immediate impact in addressing abuses of the rights of child migrants and asylum seekers. We urge you to:
Anti-corruption measures are critical to ensuring that human rights protections are enjoyed by all Indonesians. We commend the progress made by the Anti-Corruption Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi), particularly in its recent efforts to coordinate reform in the forest sector, but it is not enough. Sustained, rigorous efforts to root out corruption in the police, judiciary, and military will help stem the loss of tax revenues from lucrative natural resources, especially the forestry and plantation sectors. Strong leadership from yourself and the Ministry of Forestry is needed to implement anti-corruption reforms, such as mechanisms to ensure the legal origin of wood products and the full payment of forestry taxes.
There are also a series of measures that your government should take in the longer term to address abuses related to corruption. We urge you to:
Mismanagement and corruption associated with forestry and agricultural concessions fuel land conflicts, sometimes violent, between companies and local communities. Government authorities have routinely violated the rights of forest-dependent communities in allocating land use and granting natural resource companies extraction rights. However, a landmark 2013 constitutional court ruling found inclusion of customary territories within state forests to be unconstitutional. This ruling represents a significant and laudable shift toward the correction of decades of injustice. However, this ruling's implementation requires the government to map and register these lands and negotiate their removal from existing concessions.
There is one measure that you can undertake after taking office that will have immediate impact in addressing human rights abuses related to indigenous land rights. We urge you to:
Indonesia was one of the 47 founding members of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and has announced it would run for a new term for 2015 – 2017. Prior to 2011, Indonesia systematically voted against all country-specific resolutions put to vote in the Council, with the exception of all the resolutions focusing on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. Since August 2011, Indonesia has modified its approach to the Human Rights Council by abstaining on most of the country specific resolutions presented for adoption to the Council, and supported the Council's action on the grave human rights violations committed in Syria.
As a major player at the Human Rights Council, Indonesia engaged on many of the Council's debates on country-specific situations, but advocated for weakening language on violations and strengthening language on progress in these countries. In order to fully fulfill the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council to "address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and make recommendations thereon" and to "respond promptly to human rights emergencies," Indonesia should not use its regional leadership to shield countries from criticism on well-documented human rights concerns, but rather use the Council's country-specific debates to press them to engage in much needed reforms. We urge your government to:
Executive Director, Asia division
Human Rights Watch
CC: Vice President-elect Jusuf Kalla
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