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In 2020, Indonesia’s leaders abandon human rights

December 20, 2020

1) [INSIGHT] In 2020, Indonesia’s leaders abandon human rights

Usman Hamid The Jakarta Post

Jakarta / Sun, December 20, 2020 / 10:54 pm


Motorists ride past a mural portraying missing activist and poet Wiji Thukul on Jl. Raya Ciledug, Cipulir, South Jakarta, on Dec. 10 coinciding with the commemoration of International Human Rights Day. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

This year Indonesia witnessed a rollback of important reforms in human rights. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s security approach to tackling COVID-19, opting for an economic agenda over human rights and the imposition of hypernationalism, which resulted in a further authoritarian turn and state control of the internet, marked the regression. We began 2020 in an already weakened state of human rights after a tumultuous 2019. In January of this year, fire engulfed environmentalist Murdani’s house in Lombok while he, his wife, their 4-year-old daughter and their 17-year-old son were asleep. The family escaped unharmed. In May, electoral violence killed 10 people. In September, a clampdown on student protests resulted in the loss of at least five lives with hundreds more wounded during peaceful efforts to defend the country’s anticorruption body and democracy from the government’s attempt to restore draconian laws.

In short, we saw shrinking civic space as well as the weakening of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and political opposition. In 2019 alone, the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) recorded that at least 6,128 people were subject to free speech violations, including 324 children. This year, COVID-19 exacerbated the regression through the securitization of all social and political life, enabling security actors to clamp down on political opposition by means of legal instruments, including handling the pandemic. Instead of implementing science-based policies, President Jokowi chose a military-dominated structure that, unsurprisingly, produced a hardline security approach to public health matters. Not only have such decisions failed to prevent a severe and prolonged health crisis – with at least 368 frontline health workers dead of COVID-19 exposure and exhaustion – but they have worsened the overall human rights climate. On April 4, for example, the National Police headquarters instructed officers to take action against “hoax spreaders” and those who insulted the President and his administration. As a result, the police launched criminal investigations into around 100 cases related to the government’s response to the pandemic.

Despite the pandemic, the government and the House of Representatives passed the Job Creation Law to further strengthen business interests, while undermining workers’ and environmental rights. The National Police issued another directive intimidating and criminalizing critics of the controversial law, increasing the rise of cyber-authoritarianism. All of this happened against a backdrop of increasing online intimidation in many forms that included credential theft, spam calls, digital harassment, as well as abusive intrusions into online discussions. Criminalization by a technologically savvy state apparatus under a draconian cyberlaw is not the only instrument of internet control. Media reports have also implicated the government in deploying an army of cyber or pro-regime trolls, akin to China’s “fifty-centers”, trained to debate antigovernment forces on the web. In the offline space, during the omnibus law protests we documented at least 411 victims of unlawful police use of force in 15 provinces, with 6,658 people arrested in 21 provinces and 301 of them, including 18 journalists, detained incommunicado for various durations.

This has sinister echoes of the ruthless crackdowns on pro-reform students 22 years ago. In the eastern parts of Indonesia such as Maluku and Papua at least 38 prisoners of conscience remain behind bars, mostly charged under treason despite only participating in antiracism protests. In Papua and West Papua, security forces committed human rights violations against indigenous people, largely with impunity. Prominent among at least 52 cases of unlawful killings – with a total of 103 victims – were the horrific reports of violence and killing in Hitadipa, Intan Jaya; a priest was tortured and killed, and young men were kidnapped.

Across the country, at least 202 social justice leaders and activists were under threat, including around 61 indigenous rights leaders who have been subjected to detention, physical attacks and intimidation. In August, Effendi Buhing, a leader of the indigenous Laman Kinipan, was arrested by Central Kalimantan police in relation to a years-long land dispute with a palm oil company. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people also continued to face threats following misleading statements made by public officials on the grounds of “defending the country’s public morality”.

Politicians from various parties introduced a family resilience bill that would outlaw surrogacy and require LGBT people to seek conversion therapy. The Supreme Court confirmed that 14 gay men in the military were fired and imprisoned for their sexual orientation. This year also marked a setback for women’s rights and gender equality. During the pandemic, there was a 75 percent increase in reports of sexual violence against women. In July, the House dropped the sexual violence eradication bill from its priority list, while some lawmakers supported the regressive family resilience bill. Feminist media groups and individuals were attacked, doxxed and harassed by unidentified people who sent unwanted, sexually explicit images and demeaning statements about women.

In November, four Christians were killed – two by beheading – in Sulawesi, reflecting a government failure to protect religious minorities. Not to mention cases of other abuses of religious freedom, including at least 40 cases of house of worship closures, blasphemy accusations and other forms of religious discrimination.

While 2020 will no doubt be remembered as the year Indonesia – and the world – faced an unprecedented health crisis, we should also remember it as a year when the country’s human rights crisis further deepened. A year when our civic space for protests and public criticism shrank. A year when Indonesia’s leaders abandoned human rights.

Director of Amnesty International Indonesia, founder of Public Virtue and lecturer at the Indonesia Jentera School of Law


2) Indonesian Churches Urge Jakarta to Stop Violence in Papua

12/20/2020 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – While Papua has been integrated into the Republic of Indonesia for nearly six decades, the restive yet resource-rich Christian majority region has long suffered from discrimination and a struggle over land and natural resource.

In recent months, tensions haven run high between Indonesia’s security forces and local Papuans, resulting in casualties that include the killing of a Christian pastor and a Catechist, which caused many to condemn the extrajudicial killings.

The ongoing violence pushed the Association of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) and the United Evangelical Mission entitled Stop Violence in Papua to hold a seminar on Thursday, December 17, 2020.

One of the findings was that discrimination against Papuans is still prevalent in various places in Indonesia. This has created a sense of injustice for Papua, so that they often express their resentment being part of Indonesia.

Given that Jakarta’s security approach in dealing with the Papuan unrest is still a priority and therefore the escalation of violence has continued to increase, even church workers, especially those serving in conflict areas, are targeted.

The murder of Pastor Yeremia Zanambani, allegedly carried out by security forces two months ago, has caused fear for Papuans. Until now, the government has not taken comprehensive steps to prevent the extrajudicial killing in Papua.

As a result, according to, the group urges the Indonesian government together with the Indonesian Parliament to immediately stop the security approach that is being carried out which has resulted in casualties and caused deep fear and trauma for Papuans.

“To avoid further casualties, we ask that the withdrawal of non-organic troops in Papua be carried out and temporarily stop military operations in Papua,” read a statement by the church leadership who attended the seminar.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press.


3) West Papua traditional communities oppose new Tambrauw military command

CNN Indonesia – December 15, 2020

Jakarta – Residents of Tambrauw regency in West Papua province are opposing the establishment of the Tambrauw 1810 District Military Command (Kodim) which was officially inaugurated on Monday December 14.

Yohanis Mambrasar, the lawyer representing indigenous Papuan land owners (hak ulayat) from the Abun Tribe Customary Foundation (Lamasa), said that the residents reject the Kodim headquarters, which will be built on five hectares of customary land belonging to local people.

According to Mambrasar, local people have been opposing the establishment of Kodim1810 since 2019 when the plan first became public.

"Customary communities, hak ulayat owners and us, youths and students, have already sent letters to the government and even demonstrated, urging the government to hold a dialogue with the Tambrauw customary communities but to this day this has not happened", said Mambrasar when contacted by phone on Tuesday December 15.

They are also urging the TNI (Indonesian military) commander, the West Papua Kasuari XVIII regional military commander in Manokwari and the 181 PVT military district commander (Dandrem) in Sorong to cancel the establishment of the Tambrauw Kodim.

Mambrasar said that they are urging the government, in this case President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, House of Representatives (DPR) speaker Puan Maharani, the West Papua governor, the speaker of the West Papua Regional House of Representatives (DPRD), the Tambrauw regent and the Tambrauw regency DPRD to coordinate with the TNI to cancel the establishment of the Tambrauw 1810 Kodim.

Mambrasar said that opposition is not just coming from Tambrauw regency but from other regions were Tambrauw communities reside. They continue to protest the establishment of the Kodim and are asking for it to be cancelled, even though it has already been officially opened.

"They will continue to hold protests opposing it even though the Kodim has already been officially opened", he said.

Mambrasar said that the opposition was not without reason. Residents do not want violence by the TNI to increase in their area if the Kodim is officially established.

According to Mambrasar, residents have learnt from the experience of what has happened in the past, namely military operations in the Tambrauw area by the Indonesian Armed Forces (then called ABRI) in the 1960s and 1970s. They are still suffering trauma over the operations.

"They have learnt from the experience of what has happened, namely the TNI committing violence against local people, they also learnt from past experiences, namely the ABRI operations in the 1960s and 1970s in the Tambrauw area which traumatised them", he said.

Not only that, Mambrasar also confirmed that indigenous Papuan land owners whose land will be used for the contraction of the Tambrauw Kodim 1810 headquarters do not want to give up their land.

On Monday December 14, TNI Brigadier General Indra Heri officially opened the Tambrauw Kodim and at the same time inaugurated infantry Lieutenant Colonel Ildefonso Akilis Do Camro as the Tambrauw 1810 district military commander.

CNN Indonesia has contacted Kasuari XVIII regional military commander Colonel Kav Zubaedi to seek information about opposition to the establishment of the Tambrauw 1810 Kodim but Zubaedi claimed not to have received any information on the matter.

"I’m sorry, we cannot yet confirm the matter. We’re currently preparing for the regional military command’s 4th anniversary", said Zubaedi when sought for confirmation by SMS. (tst/pmg)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Masyarakat Adat Papua Barat Tolak Pembentukan Kodim Tambrauw".]


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