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Indonesia country report 2024

Human Rights Watch - January 12, 2024

Indonesia, a multiparty democracy, continued to fall short in protecting and promoting basic civil and political rights. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo began the last year of his two terms in office, during which he did little to advance human rights protections in the country. Politically, Jokowi made his son, Gibran Raka, the running mate to presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto after the Constitutional Court – headed by Anwar Usman, Jokowi's brother-in-law – had controversially ruled that 36-year-old Gibran was eligible to join the presidential ticket because he is an elected mayor, despite the statutory age requirement of 40.

Indonesian authorities committed or condoned numerous human rights abuses involving discrimination on religious, ethnic, social, gender, and sexual orientation grounds. Disadvantaged groups – in particular religious minorities, women and girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people – faced continuing or increasing restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, belief, religion, and movement. Military and police committed abuses with impunity, especially in West Papua, where authorities continued to restrict travel and access by outside media, diplomats, and human rights monitors.

New Criminal Code

On January 2, 2023, President Jokowi signed into law a new criminal code containing problematic provisions that, if implemented and enforced, would undermine freedoms of speech, belief, and association and imperil the rights of women, religious minorities, and LGBT people. The law comes into effect in January 2026. In late 2022, the government summoned the United Nations' lead representative in Indonesia in response to a critical statement on the law by UN experts, leading the UN to remove the statement from the UN Indonesia website.

In early 2023, the government pledged to consult with stakeholders, embassies, businesses, and civil society groups on implementation regulations, but subsequent consultations were one-sided briefings by officials in which no input was solicited. Many of the law's vague or overbroad provisions remained poorly de- fined, magnifying concerns about the law's future enforcement.

The new law criminalizes consensual sex outside of marriage and cohabitation of unrelated persons, permitting intrusions into the most intimate decisions of individuals and families. Since same-sex couples cannot marry in Indonesia, the provisions effectively render same-sex sexual conduct illegal. The law also recognizes "any living law" in the country, which could be interpreted as legitimizing hundreds of discriminatory regulations based on Sharia (Islamic law) that local authorities have imposed in jurisdictions across the country, including curfews for women and girls, mandatory hijab dress codes, and provisions that could impact the rights of LGBT people.

The new law maintains provisions criminalizing abortion and expands criminalization to include providing information about obtaining abortions or providing information about contraception to children. The law's blasphemy chapter was expanded to include an article criminalizing apostasy. The law also criminalizes speech insulting or demeaning senior government officials or state institutions and expands articles on criminal defamation and "fake news."

Women's and girls' rights

Many provinces, regencies, and cities continued to impose discriminatory dress codes on women and girls. In August, Indonesia's National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) held its first-ever hearing on mandatory dress regulations, hearing from female students, teachers, and parents about widespread bullying of those who refuse to wear the jilbab or hijab. Many of those refusing to comply with the rules, including non-Muslims, continued to face expulsion or pressure to withdraw from school. In several cases, female civil servants, including teachers and university lecturers, lost their jobs or resigned for refusing to comply with rules.

The provision in the criminal code banning sex outside of marriage is likely to deter rape victims, who are mostly women and girls, from reporting rapes and could lead to some rape victims being imprisoned if they are suspected of having engaged in consensual sex outside of marriage.

Disability rights

The Indonesian Mental Health Association had petitioned the Constitutional Court of Indonesia to review article 433 of the Civil Code to ban guardianship of people with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities. In July 2023, in an important step forward, the Constitutional Court partially granted the petitioners' re- quest by altering the nature of guardianship of people with disabilities from being mandatory to being optional.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities called on the Indonesian government to eradicate restrictive practices such as pasung (shack- ling). According to a recent media report, seven people with psychosocial disabilities (mental health conditions) who were shackled died on Flores Island between June and September.

Sexual orientation and gender identity

Officials continued to target LGBT people. In July, advocates canceled a regional gathering of LGBT activists in Jakarta in response to harassment and death threats from Muslim conservatives. The ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, a regional organization based in the Philippines, had planned to hold their annual ASEAN Queer Advocacy Week in Jakarta during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

On May 28, Pekanbaru police and public security officials arrested 29 women and 28 men in several raided houses in Sukajadi area, accusing them of being "LGBT couples."

Freedom of religion and belief

Provisions in a 1965 blasphemy law (already in effect but expanded by the new criminal code), and a 2006 religious harmony regulation, continue to place religious minorities at risk. The 2006 regulation continued to give religious majorities in communities the power to veto religious activities by minority religions or stop them from constructing houses of worship, primarily impacting Christians, Shia Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucians. Smaller minorities, including Ahmadiyah, Bah'ai, and Indigenous faiths, continue to face even harsher treatment. As in the previous two decades, the government did too little to stop Islamic groups attacking or harassing religious minorities or to hold those responsible to account. For instance, on September 17, dozens of Muslim militants stopped a religious service held by a Christian group in Depok, arguing it had "no permit" to conduct services.

In March, police arrested a TikTok star, Lina Mukherjee, under the blasphemy law for posting an online video showing her eating pork after saying an Islamic prayer. In September, the Palembang district court sentenced her to two years in prison. Islamic groups have also pressured musical or theater venues to cancel or not host artists deemed to promote un-Islamic values.

Papua provinces, ethnic minorities, and land rights

In December 2022, a special court convened in Makassar acquitted an army officer, Isak Sattu, of charges related to an infamous 2014 massacre in West Papua during which soldiers fired on hundreds of protesting Papuans for over 7 minutes, killing 4 teenagers and injuring as many as 21 other people, including women and children.

In April, prominent human rights defenders Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti were placed on trial in Jakarta for criminal defamation pursuant to a complaint by Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, a senior minister in President Jokowi's cabinet, under Indonesia's Electronic Information and Transactions Law (ITE Law), relating to statements they made about Pandjaitan's alleged involvement in a gold mining project in West Papua.

Dozens of Papuans arrested for their participation in widespread anti-racism protests across Papua in 2019, including Malvin Yobe and Victor Yeimo, were re- leased in 2023 after serving sentences. Authorities continue to arrest and prose- cute Indigenous Papuans for expressing views in support of peaceful self-determination.

The government's planned evictions of thousands of ethnic Malay people on Rempang Island, south of Singapore, which have been partly enabled by their lack of proper land title, led to massive but largely peaceful protests in September, which authorities met with tear gas and water cannons.

UN experts expressed alarm at reports of increased militarization and intimidation around the Mandalika project on Lombok Island.

Key international actors

Indonesia chaired ASEAN in 2023, organizing multiple summits, but ASEAN did not press the military junta in Myanmar to implement any provisions of the Five Point Consensus achieved in Jakarta in April 2021 after the military coup in February 2021.

In Johannesburg on August 24, President Jokowi declined to accept an offer to join BRICS (the grouping founded by Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The group agreed to add six other countries – Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – in an apparent effort to boost influence in the Global South.

At the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in March and April 2023, member states adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Indonesia, in which the government committed to implement 205 out of the 269 recommendations received, including on ensuring that the new criminal code does not restrict fundamental freedoms, repealing discriminatory laws against LGBT people, and ending discrimination against women and girls.

In October 2023, Indonesia was elected to the Human Rights Council for a three- year term beginning in January 2024. As a previous member, Indonesia had a mixed record, voting to not even discuss a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' report alleging possible crimes against humanity by China against its Uyghur and other Muslim communities in Xinjiang.

Full Human Rights Watch World Report 2024: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/media_2024/01/World%20Report%202024%20LOWRES%20WEBSPREADS_0.pdf

Source: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2024/country-chapters/indonesi