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UN rights rapporteur closely watching trial of rights activists charged with libel

CNN Indonesia - April 3, 2023

Jakarta – The United Nations (UN) has highlighted the trial of human rights activists Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti who have been indicted on charges of tarnishing the good name of Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment (Menko Marves) Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, says that she has even sent a letter to the Indonesian government in relation to alleged legal violations against Azhar and Maulidiyanti.

"In the letter, we declared concern over judicial harassment against a woman human rights defender Mrs. Maulidiyanti and human rights defender Mr. Azhar, through a defamation complaint against them that appears to be directly related with their rights on the issue of freedom of opinion and expression", said Lawlor in a statement on December 29, 2022.

In the statement, Lawlor also expressed concern about the use of the Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) Law by government officials to threaten activists and human rights defenders.

"What is also of concern is criminalisation through [articles on] defamation and laws that pose the risk of harming the right to freedom of opinion and expression, rights that are guaranteed under national regulations that are set out in Republic of Indonesia Law Number 39/1999 on Human Rights", she added.

I'll be following the hearing in the trial of HRDs Fatia Maulidiyanti & Haris Azhar in #Indonesia on Monday. The case strongly appears to be an act of retaliation for their human rights work & exercise of freedom of expression. See: https://twitter.com/MaryLawlorhrds/status/1641852570070024213?cxt=HHwWqoCwydWNhMktAAAA – Mary Lawlor UN Special Rapporteur HRDs (@MaryLawlorhrds) March 31, 2023

Azhar and Maulidiyanti underwent the first hearing at the East Jakarta District Court on Monday April 3. Both have been indicted for committing defamation against Pandjaitan.

Azhar and Maulidiyanti, who are being tried separately, are charged with defamation or tarnishing Panjaitan's good name through a video uploaded on Azhar's YouTube account on August 20, 2021.

"The defendant Haris Azhar and witness Fatia Maulidiyanti have never tried to confirm or cross check the truth of the information from the quick study with the witness Luhut Pandjaitan alias Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan before recording the video", read the explanation in the indictment.

In this case, Azhar has been charged under Article 27 Paragraph (3) in conjunction with Article 45 Paragraph (3) of the Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE Law) on defamation in conjunction with Article 55 Paragraph (1) of the 1st Criminal Code (KUHP) and or Article 15 of Law Number 1/1946 on Criminal Law Regulations in conjunction with Article 55 Paragraph (1) of the 1st KUHP and or Article 310 Paragraph (1) in conjunction with Article 55 Paragraph (1) of the 1st KUHP. [repetition in original]

"Those who commit, who order someone to commit, and participate in committing an action, intentionally and without the right, and/or transmit and/or gain access to electronic information and/or electronic documents that have contents that insult and/or tarnish [someone's] good name", said the prosecutor.

The legal proceedings began with a report by Pandjaitan who felt that his good name had been tarnished by Azhar and Maulidiyanti in relation to a video discussion titled "There is Lord Luhut behind the Economic Relations-Military Operations in Intan Jaya!! There are also State Intelligence Agency Generals!!".

The police report was made in September 2021 and registered as Number LP/B/4702/IX/2021/SPKT/POLDA METRO JAYA. The police then declared Azhar and Maulidiyanti as suspects.

Menko Marves spokesperson Jodi Mahardi meanwhile said that prior to submitting the police report, Pandjaitan set a summons to Azhar and Maulidiyanti asking them to apologise, which they did not do. Mahardi emphasised that Pandjaitan is not involved in the mining business in the Wabu Block in Papua.

"Due to the uploading [of the video] on Saudara [Brother] Haris Azhar's YouTube channel this has formed incorrect opinions or statements, tendencies, was a character assassination, slander, an insult/defamation and fake news that Pak [Mr] Luhut is involved in the mining business in Wabu Block", said Mahardi in an SMS message sent to CNN Indonesia some time ago. (rds)


According to a CNN Indonesia article on the same day, in response to the letter sent by Mary Lawler to the Indonesian government, Mahardi has asked Lawler to hold to the principles of justice and truth.

"As a human rights defender Ibu [Mrs] Mary understands the importance of holding to the principles of justice and truth in carrying out her duties", Mahardi told CNN Indonesia on April 3.

Mahardi added that Pandjaitan has the same rights in the eyes of the law to clear his good name of baseless accusations or slander and that he hopes a person who is defending human rights can ensure the truth of the facts and information being conveyed beforehand. "Therefore, a human rights defender must always be prudent and professional in carrying out their duties", he said.

See: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20230403174505-12-933029/jubir-luhut-respons-sorotan-pihak-pbb-di-sidang-haris-azhar-fatiah

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Pelapor PBB Soroti Sidang Haris Azhar-Fatiah yang Dituduh Hina Luhut".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/internasional/20230403155221-134-932968/pelapor-pbb-soroti-sidang-haris-azhar-fatiah-yang-dituduh-hina-luhu