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INDONESIA: Increase in criminalisation of human rights defenders in 2008

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munir_campaign.jpgInside is a translated and edited version of a press release issued by Imparsial (Indonesian Human Rights Monitor), WALHI (Indonesian Forum for Environment), HRWG (Human Rights Working Group), Federasi KontraS and KASUM (Committee of Action Solidarity for Munir) on 12 September, in conjunction with the death anniversary of human rights activist Munir Thalib Said.

In memory of human rights defenders and Munir's death anniversary, 7 September 2008: HRDs in Indonesia MUST be protected. United NationsSpecial Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders Hina Jilani's visit to Indonesia in June 2007 has yet to be greeted with improvement in the protection of HRDs in Indonesia. Ideally, the role of the country is fulfilling, protecting and promoting human rights in Indonesia is very much needed by HRDs.

HRDs becoming victims (human rights violations) in the line of duty has colored much of 2008. Criminalisation is one of the methods often used by the government to entrap HRDs who are considered "from overseas".

The violations include: 'flash' murder, restriction to freedom of expression and assembly; the work of HRDs are often prevented by using intimidation and stigmatisation and labeling HRDs as provocateurs, communists, foreign agents, separatists and anti-nationalist. In fact, the UN Declaration on HRD on 9 December 1998 (UN General Assembly resolution 24/144) makes it compulsory for states to guarantee the protection of HRDs.

Munir's murder on 7 September 2004 by conspirators suspected to be involved in high level BIN (National Intelligence Body) – among them are Mayjen TNI Muchdi Purwopranjono, Deputy V BIN – during Megawati Soekarnoputri reign in power, shows the increasing susceptibility of HRDs to violence by state apparatus and the much needed protection for HRDs so that they can carry out their duties properly.

 In conflict areas such as Aceh, HRDs are still criminalised by using laws related to sedition and joint destruction of property (pengrusakan barang secara bersama-sama).

In Papua, HRDs have been murdered, criminalised for organising events against state policies, and books banned, indicating the government's increased fear and suspicion towards the work of HRDs, to the extent that it is justifiable for the government to violate laws (in order to deal with HRDs).

In Jakarta, journalists are criminalised with imprisonment, heavy fines and forced apologies, for reasons such as "insulting the Attorney General's office and general authority. This form of criminalisation violates journalists' rights to opinion.

Based on data provided by Walhi, on July and August 2008, 86 HRDs – Runtu (6); Sumut (42); Bima NTB (17); Sultra (1); Cilacap (17); Jabar(3) – were arrested and abused by police.

Threats against HRDs in 2008 also include civil society groups, for example, on the anniversary of the Constitution at Tugu Monas, more than 50 people were abused by police, who were not prepared to maintain peace as they were supposed to.

The 7 September memorial was agreed by a number of community representatives in the Indonesian HRD Declaration on the same date in 2005.

The groups urged the government to:

  • Speed up the drafting of protection laws for HRDs in line with the HRD Declaration and address all laws which violate the Declaration;
  • Not prevent the efforts of HRDs to promote and develop human rights in Indonesia;
  • Investigate completely the conspirators of Munir's murder and crime against other HRDs in Indonesia;
  •  Stop the efforts to criminalise HRDs as mentioned above.