Singgih Wiryono, Jakarta – The Civil Society Coalition says that the criminalisation of two human rights defenders – Lokataru Foundation for Human Rights Executive Director Azhar Haris and Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Coordinator Fatia Maulidiyanti – represent a serious threat to democracy and civil freedoms.
"The criminal case against Fatia and Haris represents a serious threat to democracy and the state of civil freedoms in Indonesia", said Coalition member and Kontras legal division head Andi Rezaldy in a press release on Monday April 3.
Rezaldy said that over the last few years, freedom of expression in Indonesia has never experienced any advances.
This, said Rezaldy, has been marked by widespread arbitrary arrests, the excessive and forced dispersal of demonstrations, the criminalisation of activists who criticise the government and other violations.
"In general, the continuation of this case will only add [another] black mark to the track record of democracy in Indonesia", he said.
According to Rezaldy, Maulidiyanti and Azhar are victims of judicial harassment where legal mechanisms are used to criminalise members of the public who actively express an opinion.
Today, on Monday March 3, Maulidiyanti and Azhar underwent the first hearing at the East Jakarta District Court on charges of defamation filed by Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.
The trial represents a consequence of a decision by the Metro Jaya regional police who declared the two human rights activists suspects on March 19.
The case started due a video of a conversation between Azhar and Maulidiyanti that was uploaded onto Azhar's YouTube channel titled "There is Lord Luhut behind the Economic Relations-Military Operations in Intan Jaya!! There are also State Intelligence Agency Generals!!".
In the video, they cite Pandjaitan as "playing a role" in mining businesses in Intan Jaya regency, Papua.
Pandjaitan denied the accusation and issued a summons against Azhar and Maulidiyanti asking them to apologise. The apology however was not forthcoming so Pandjaitan reported them to the Metro Jaya police on September 22, 2021.
Pandjaitan said that he decided to report them to the police because the statements by Azhar and Maulidiyanti tarnished the good name of him and his family.
"Yes, because (Haris and Fatia) were (summoned) twice but didn't apologise, I have to defend my good name, the names of my children, my grandchildren, right", said Pandjaitan at the time.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Koalisi Masyarakat Sipil: Kriminalisasi Fatia-Haris Ancaman Serius Demokrasi dan Kebebasan Sipil".]