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Threats, assault against critics mar 2024 election: Amnesty Indonesia

Jakarta Post - February 26, 2024

Alifia Sekar, Jakarta – The 2024 general election was marred by dozens of incidences of intimidation and persecution, especially those targeting people criticizing the election process, human rights group Amnesty International Indonesia said.

The human rights NGO identified at least 16 incidences of intimidation, police reports and physical assault that targeted at least 34 activists who had spoken out critically about the administration of outgoing President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, between the start of the campaign period until Feb. 13, the day before election day.

"Those targeted included artists, journalists and academics who were vocal [in their criticisms]," Amnesty Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said in a statement released on Friday.

He added that the group also recorded assault targeting people who raised concerns over alleged election fraud, including supporters of the presidential pairs competing against front-runner Prabowo Subianto.

Many media reports, experts and even public officials noted the tacit support President Jokowi demonstrated for his defense minister. Prabowo is also chairman of the Gerindra Party, a rival of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which backed Jokowi in the 2014 and 2019 elections.

Despite initially pledging his neutrality, analysts observed the President making more overt signals as the presidential election grew nearer.

While standing next to Prabowo on Jan. 24 at a handover ceremony for military aircraft in Jakarta, he remarked that a sitting president was free to back any candidate and also had a right to campaign for their preferred candidate in their free time.

Prabowo campaigned for the presidency with running mate Gibran Rakabuming Raka, Jokowi's eldest son and mayor of Surakarta, the Widodo family's hometown.

Among the prominent cases Amnesty Indonesia noted was the intimidation of several academics over statements they made accusing the President of "deviating" from democratic principles as they called for an honest and free election.

The rights group also noted that the suppression of critical voices increased as the Feb. 14 election day neared, including police dispersing a student-led discussion on Feb. 3 in Jakarta about electoral fraud.

In addition, several groups reportedly filed complaints with the police against legal experts Zainal Arifin Mochtar, Feri Amsari and Bivitri Susanti who featured in the documentary film Dirty Vote, as well as against its director, Dandhy Laksono.

The documentary, which was released on Feb. 11 during the three-day quiet period after the campaign period ended, alleged President Jokowi of using state resources to try to influence the 2024 presidential election in favor of Prabowo-Gibran.

The increase in incidences to suppress freedom of expression could be the result of the President's tacit partiality for Prabowo-Gibran, said Marzuki Darusman, a former attorney general and executive chair of Amnesty Indonesia.

"Such a condition creates a situation where people who are not in the same camp with the outgoing president feel as if they are excluded from the state's protection," Marzuki said.

He added that such tactics were similar to those deployed during the New Order regime of former president Soeharto, when criticisms and calls for fair and honest elections were viewed as a threat to the state.

"The state must not allow intimidation and restrictions [against] the freedoms of expression and assembly, which are [among] the civil rights people exercise [to ensure] a free and fair 2024 election," Marzuki said.

Even after the election, Amnesty Indonesia noted, such moves to limit free expression and assembly were still occurring.

Among the latest incidents involved a public screening in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, of Eksil (Exiles), a documentary about Indonesians who were forcibly exiled from their country during the 1965 tragedy.

The showing was canceled after the theater management asked the screening committee, which consisted of local rights activists, to secure an event permit from the police.

"The state should have protected such initiatives," said Amnesty's Usman, who also called on the management of the Samarinda movie theater to provide a public explanation on why the screening was canceled.

The reported incidents of intimidation and assault targeting human rights activists ahead of the 2024 general election add to the long list of violence against rights defenders from 2019 to 2023, totaling 363 recorded cases that involved 1,033 victims.

Source: https://asianews.network/threats-assault-against-critics-mar-2024-election-amnesty-indonesia