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Amnesty International: Indonesia 2017/2018

February 22, 2018

Amnesty International Report 2017/2018

INDONESIA 2017/2018

Indonesia failed to address past human rights violations. The rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association continued to be arbitrarily restricted. Blasphemy provisions were used to imprison those who peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of religion and belief. At least 30 prisoners of conscience remained in detention for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression or of religion and belief. The security forces carried out unlawful killings and used excessive force during protests and security operations. Two men were caned in public in Aceh after being convicted by a local Shari’a court of same-sex consensual sexual relations.


Indonesia’s human rights record was examined in May under the UN UPR process. Although Indonesia accepted 167 out of 225 recommendations, it rejected, among other things, calls to investigate past human rights violations and to repeal blasphemy provisions in laws and regulations. These included several provisions of the Criminal Code and Law No. 1/PNPS/1965, which imposed restrictions on freedoms of expression and of religion and belief. 1


Despite commitments made by the President, Indonesia failed to address past human rights violations. In February, the Administrative Court in the capital, Jakarta, overturned a decision by the Public Information Commission ordering the government to publish a report on the 2004 murder of human rights defender Munir Said Thalib, which reportedly implicated senior intelligence officers. The Court made the decision on the grounds that the current government had not received the report from the previous government. In August, the Supreme Court upheld the Administrative Court’s decision.

During the UPR, Indonesia promised that the Attorney General would finalize a criminal investigation into alleged gross human rights violations in Wasior in 2001 and Wamena in 2003, both in Papua region, and forward the case to the Human Rights Court established under Law No. 26/2000. However, this had not happened by the end of the year.

Freedoms of assembly, association and expression

The authorities continued to prosecute those participating in peaceful political activities, particularly in areas with a history of pro-independence movements such as Papua. Prisoner of conscience Oktovianus Warnares remained in detention because he refused to sign a document declaring his allegiance to the state of Indonesia, despite having served two thirds of his prison sentence and being eligible for release on parole. He had been convicted of “rebellion” (makar) in 2013 after taking part in activities peacefully marking the 50th anniversary of the handover of Papua to the Indonesian government by the UN Temporary Executive Authority.

In August Novel Baswedan, an investigator for the Corruption Eradication Commission, was reported to the police by the Commission’s director of investigation under Article 27(3) of the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law, which concerns online defamation. The defamation report related to an email he had sent in his capacity as representative of the Commission’s workers’ union, criticizing the director’s leadership. Novel Baswedan suffered an acid attack in Jakarta on 11 April that severely damaged his corneas. At the time of the attack he was leading an ongoing investigation into misappropriation by high-ranking government officials of funds for an electronic ID cards project.

On 10 July President Widodo signed Government Regulation in Lieu of Law (Perppu) No. 2/2017, amending the 2013 Law on Mass Organizations to remove judicial safeguards over the process of banning NGOs and other organizations. The new legislation, enacted by Parliament in October, would impose restrictions on the rights to freedom of association, expression, religion and belief, which were even more extensive than those currently set out in the Law on Mass Organizations. The Law already stifled the work of human rights defenders and reflected discriminatory attitudes towards certain groups. 2

Security forces and vigilante groups broke up closed-door discussions and public events relating to serious human rights violations committed in 1965. On 1 August, the local police and military from East Jakarta disrupted a workshop in Jakarta concerning the findings of the International Peoples Tribunal 1965, a civil society initiative to raise international awareness about the mass human rights violations that occurred that year.

On 16 September the police banned a closed-door seminar at the office of the Indonesian and Jakarta Legal Aid Institute featuring a discussion by survivors of the 1965 violations. On the night of 17 September, a crowd of around 1,000 claiming to be “anti-communists” surrounded the office, trapping scores of artists and activists attending an event concerning the recent crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Early the following morning, the crowd threw rocks at the office and destroyed the fence surrounding the building. Hundreds of police officers used tear gas to disperse the crowd. 3

Freedom of religion and belief

Blasphemy provisions in Articles 156 and 156(a) of the Criminal Code and Article 28(2) of the ITE Law were used to imprison those who peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of religion and belief. At least 11 people were convicted under blasphemy laws. Individuals belonging to minority religions or faiths or holding minority beliefs were often targeted for prosecution. On 9 May, Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian known as Ahok, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for “insulting Islam” in a video posted on the internet. Ahok was the first high-ranking government official to be convicted of blasphemy. 4

On 7 March, Ahmad Mushaddeq, Mahful Muis Tumanurung and Andry Cahya, leaders of the disbanded Fajar Nusantara religious movement known as Gafatar, were convicted of blasphemy by the East Jakarta District Court. The conviction was upheld by the Jakarta High Court on 3 July.

At the end of the year, at least 30 prisoners of conscience remained in detention for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression or of religion and belief.

On 4 June, the local government in Depok, West Java, sealed a mosque belonging to the Ahmadiyya religious minority, considered by many Islamic groups to be “deviant and outside of Islam”. Authorities prevented the Ahmadis from using the mosque during Ramadan. The Depok Mayor argued that the legal basis for the closure of the mosque was a ministerial decree and a provincial regulation, both forbidding Ahmadiyya community members from promoting their activities and spreading their religious teachings. The Mayor also said that it was necessary to protect the Ahmadiyya community in Depok from violent attacks by other groups in the area.

Police and security forces

Human rights groups reported unlawful killings and other serious human rights violations by security forces, primarily in the context of excessive use of force during mass protests or during security operations. No perpetrators were known to have been held to account, particularly for numerous incidents in Papua.

Excessive use of force

Between September 2016 and January 2017, joint police and military forces carried out security operations in Dogiyai, Papua province, during the run-up to the 2017 local elections. On 10 January police officers arbitrarily arrested Otis Pekei when he refused to hand over a knife at a police checkpoint, and detained him at the Moanemani sub-district police station. Later that day, police delivered Otis Pekei’s body to the home of his family; the family accused the police of torturing him during detention. No investigation was known to have been conducted.

On 1 August in Deiyai, Papua province, police officers arbitrarily opened fire into a crowd of protesters without warning, wounding at least 10 people, including children. Nine police officers were subjected to disciplinary action; no criminal proceedings were known to have been opened.

Unlawful killings

The number of killings by police of suspected drug dealers increased sharply, from 18 in 2016 to at least 98 in 2017. Some of the officers involved in the incidents were seconded to the National Narcotics Agency. Police claimed that all the killings were in self-defence or because suspects tried to flee the scene. No independent investigations were known to have been conducted into these killings. The number of deaths escalated after several high-ranking Indonesian officials, including the President, advocated during the year for tougher measures to address drug-related crime, including calling for the application of unrestrained lethal force against suspected traffickers.

Deaths in custody

Deaths in custody and torture by police personnel were reported by human rights organizations.

On 27 August Rifzal Riandi Siregar was arrested in Batang Toru precinct in North Sumatra province after he was involved in a fight with a police officer. When his relatives visited him at the Batang Toru police station, he told them that he had been badly beaten at the station by four police officers, including the one with whom he had had the altercation. On 3 September, Rifzal Riandi Siregar was found dead in the police station. At the request of his family, the police transferred his body to a police hospital in Medan, where an autopsy was conducted. The police promised to give the autopsy report to the family within a week. They had not received it by the end of the year.

Cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment

At least 317 people were caned in Aceh during the year for offences such as adultery, gambling and drinking alcohol, as well as same-sex consensual sexual relations.

In May, two men were each caned 83 times in public after being convicted by the Banda Aceh Shari’a Court of consensual same-sex sexual relations (liwath) under the Aceh Islamic Criminal Code. Although Shari’a by-laws have been in force in Aceh since the enactment of the province’s Special Autonomy Law in 2001, and are enforced by Islamic courts, this was the first time that gay men had been caned under Shari’a law in the province. 5

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

On 25 May, 141 men were arrested in North Jakarta by local police after attending what police described as a “gay sex party”. The next day the police released 126 men, but charged 10 of them with providing “pornography service” under Law No. 44/2008 on Pornography. On 6 October, 51 people, including seven foreign nationals, were arrested in a Central Jakarta sauna. Most of the customers were released the following day; five employees remained in detention at the end of the year. The police charged six people with providing pornography and prostitution services. 6

With the exception of Aceh, consensual same-sex relations were not treated as crimes under the Indonesian Criminal Code.

Economic, social and cultural rights – right to water

On 10 October, the Supreme Court ordered the government to terminate a water privatization scheme in Jakarta. The Court approved an appeal filed by the Coalition of Jakarta Residents Opposing Water Privatization that the private provider had “failed to protect the right to water” of the residents. The Court ordered the government to immediately revoke its contracts with two private water utilities.

  1. Indonesia: Human Rights Council must ensure strong recommendations at human rights review (ASA 21/6156/2017)
  2. Indonesia: Amendments to the mass organizations law expand threats to freedom of association (ASA 21/6722/2017)
  3. Indonesia: Offices of human rights defenders attacked (ASA 21/7113/2017)
  4. Indonesia: Blasphemy conviction demonstrates intolerance – Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) (ASA 21/6213/2017)
  5. Indonesia: Revoke conviction and caning sentence for gay men in Aceh (ASA 21/6279/2017)
  6. Indonesia: Arrest of 51 people fuels hostile environment for LGBTI people (ASA 21/7289/2017)

Indonesia says Uncle Sam to lift last bans on Kopassus troops

February 21, 2018

Indonesia says Uncle Sam to lift last bans on Kopassus troops

The Australian12:00AM February 21, 2018
Indonesia says the US has undertaken to lift the remaining ­restrictions on engagement with Indonesia’s Kopassus special ­forces, ending a 19-year ban on the unit linked to civilian killings and human rights abuses in West Papua, Aceh and East Timor.

Former Indonesian military commander Moeldoko, now chief of staff to President Joko Widodo, said US ambassador Joseph Donovan had confirmed on Monday during a meeting at the presidential palace that the US would “gradually lift” the last restrictions on the military unit.

This follows a request last month from Defence Minister Ryacudu Ryamizard to his US counterpart Jim Mattis to end the ban, imposed in 1999, on US engagement with the unit.

Successive Indonesian governments have lobbied for the ban to be lifted, but have had only partial success despite support from the Pentagon. Former president Barack Obama in 2010 lifted the outright ban on US military contact with Kopassus, although its 6000 members are still banned from travelling to the US or training with US forces.

In a statement issued after Monday’s meeting, General Moeldoko said Mr Donovan had emphasised the importance of co-operation between the two armed forces in preserving stability in the Asia-Pacific region and said the US intended to “reopen the possibility of a military training ­co-­operation, (beginning) with Kopassus”.

But the US embassy in Jakarta appeared reluctant to confirm General Moeldoko’s statement yesterday, or give a time line for when US training of Kopassus might resume.

Instead an embassy spokesman said: “As Secretary Mattis’ trip to Indonesia demonstrated, we are committed to deepening our defence co-operation with ­Indonesia and are seeking opportunities for further engagement in various areas. All engagement ­activities are conducted in accordance with US law.

“We support Indonesia’s ­efforts to promote human rights and the rule of law, and we continue to discuss the importance of accountability for past abuses.”

The move would be in line with the unveiling last month of a shift in US national security focus from counter-terrorism to contain the rising power of China and Russia.

American forces are prevented under the “Leahy Law” from providing assistance or training to units known to have engaged in human rights abuses, unless they have addressed the abuses and held those responsible to account.

Mr Mattis said last month he understood Kopassus had turned a corner and removed those from the unit believed responsible for a crackdown on student activists under the Suharto regime, as well as the deaths of independence and secessionist activists in East Timor, Aceh and Papua.

Australia also cut ties with Kopassus after its members fired on Australian soldiers sent to East Timor in the lead-up to independence in 2002. Its ban also cited links between Kopassus and the disappearance and killings of political activists and civilians.

Canberra lifted the restrictions about a decade ago following a series of deadly bomb attacks in Bali and on the Australian embassy in Jakarta, rationalising that improving the skills of Kopassus was in Australia’s interest and could save Australian lives.

Amnesty International Indonesia spokesman Usman Hamid said the military had not fulfilled its promise to bring to justice high-ranking officers responsible for kidnapping and murder in Papua, East Timor and Aceh.

He also said those accused of human rights violations continued to enjoyed strategic positions within the military and in the Joko administration.


2018_02_20_40985_1519126920._large.jpg Lukas-Enembe, John-Wempi to face off in Papua election
After days of postponement, the Papua Elections Commission (KPUD) announced on Tuesday that incumbent pair Lukas Enembe – Klemen Tinal and the pair of John Wempi Wetipo – Hebel Melkias Suwae would compete in the province’s gubernatorial election in June.

Lukas-Enembe, John-Wempi to face off in Papua election
Nethy Dharma Somba The Jakarta Post
Jayapura, Papua | Tue, February 20, 2018 | 07:03 pm

After days of postponement, the Papua Elections Commission (KPUD) announced on Tuesdaythat incumbent pair Lukas Enembe – Klemen Tinal and the pair of John Wempi Wetipo – Hebel Melkias Suwae would compete in the province’s gubernatorial election in June.

The Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) declared that both pairs were indigenous Papuans, a necessary requirement to run in the election.

The Lukas-Klemen pair is endorsed by the Democratic Party, the Golkar Party, the National Awakening Party (PKB), the United Development Party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the National Mandate Party (PAN), the NasDem Party, the Hanura Party, the Crescent Star Party (PBB) and the Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI).

John and Hebel, meanwhile, are supported by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Gerindra Party.

"The MRP conducted a factual verification to check whether the four people originate from Papua. They all passed the verification process," KPUD Papua chairman Adam Arisoi said in a plenary meeting in Jayapura.

The national date to announce candidates was initially set for Feb.12, however the country’s easternmost province was late to confirm its election candidates, as the MRP was late to submit the verification documents to the election offices of the four candidates’ home regions.

Article 12 of the 2001 Special Autonomy Law stipulates that all candidates in the Papua election must be native Papuans, and that the MRP has the authority to determine whether or not the applicants meet the requirement. (foy/ebf)

‘Eye of Papua’ shines a light on environmental, indigenous issues in Indonesia’s last frontier

February 18, 2018

Press coverage

Responsible for the article below are author and publication. The
contribution does not necessarily mirror the views of Watch Indonesia!

Mongabay Series: Indonesian Forests, 14 February 2018

‘Eye of Papua’ shines a light on environmental, indigenous issues in Indonesia’s last frontier

by Hans Nicholas Jong

For decades the Papua region in Indonesia has remained the country’s least-understood, least-developed and most-impoverished area, amid a lack of transparency fueled by a strong security presence.
Activists hope their new website, Mata Papua, or Eye of Papua, will fill the information void with reports, data and maps about indigenous welfare and the proliferation of mines, logging leases and plantations in one of the world’s last great spans of tropical forest.
Companies, with the encouragement of the government, are fast carving up Papua’s land, after having nearly depleted the forests of Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo.

JAKARTA ­ Zely Ariane, an editor at the Tabloid Jubi newspaper in Indonesia’s easternmost region of Papua, gets frustrated each time an acquaintance travels there and asks to meet up on short notice.

None of them, it seems, realizes just how vast the region is.

“My friends always say, ‘Hey, I’m in Papua, let’s meet up!’” Zely said in Jakarta recently. “But where in Papua, though? If someone was to ask to meet you in Java, they’d surely say where [specifically], no?”

The name Papua typically refers to the western half of the island of New Guinea, which is split up into two administrative regions: the provinces of West Papua and Papua. Together, they cover more than 420,000 square kilometers (162,000 square miles) ­ an area the size of California. Crucially, the two provinces account for 35 percent of Indonesia’s remaining rainforest, spanning 294,000 square kilometers (113,500 square miles).

“No one seems to have a good grasp of the geography of Papua, or at least almost no one,” Zely said.

This lack of understanding is due in part to the remoteness of the region ­ Indonesia’s least developed and most impoverished ­ and its harsh mountainous terrain, as well as to the security response to a low-level separatist insurgency simmering since the 1960s. The military and police have for decades maintained a strong presence there, and to date it remains the least accessible part of Indonesia for journalists ­ in particular foreign reporters, who require a special permit just to visit the region. Earlier this month, a BBC reporter covering a health crisis in the district of Asmat was ordered to leave the region after posting tweets that the military deemed insulting.

With the authorities maintaining a chokehold on the information coming out of Papua, amid very little transparency, concerns abound over the state of human rights, healthcare, education and other development issues in Papua. Now rising up that list of concerns is the environment, as the administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo eyes the country’s easternmost provinces as a new frontier ripe for plantations, primarily oil palm, which have already nearly depleted the forests of Sumatra and Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo.

Filling the information vacuum

Now, local activists have stepped into the information vacuum with an initiative that seeks to bring greater transparency to the changes being wrought to Papua’s environment in the name of economic development.

Through their recently launched website, Mata Papua, or “Eye of Papua,” activists from the rights advocacy group Yayasan Pusaka provide reports with an emphasis on the welfare of indigenous communities and the activities of natural resource-exploitation companies: plantations, miners and loggers.

“The idea behind this website came after seeing the difficulties in accessing information and data on permits and documents related to the extractives industries,” Franky Samperante, the Yayasan Pusaka executive director, said at the launch of the website in Jakarta.

Mata Papua provides photos, videos and written reports on Papua, as well as a map built on the open-source geographical information system QGIS. The map features five overlays: social, concessions, forests, demographics and administrative.

“So if you want to know about the people in Papua, you would click on the social map,” Franky said.

He said he hoped Mata Papua would help empower Papua’s indigenous people with knowledge about their own areas and the presence of extractives companies operating in their midst. The site also aims to help officials with policy-making and give the general public a better understanding of this little-understood region.

New frontier

Franky said he believed access to information was crucial for Papua as developers ramp up their operations in the region. A recent study by Duke University and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis showed that deforestation driven by oil palm expansion in the region had escalated in the past decade, increasing fivefold.

“Right now, Sumatra and Kalimantan are already flooded with extractives permits, which is why investors are eyeing Papua next,” Franky said.

Papua is also home to one of the world’s biggest copper and gold mines, the Grasberg facility operated by a subsidiary of the U.S. mining giant Freeport McMoRan. Mining remains the dominant extractive industry in the region, accounting for a combined 90,000 square kilometers (about 35,000 square miles) of leases, according to Franky. This is followed by logging, with 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) and plantations with 21,000 square kilometers (8,100 square miles).

The expansion of the extractives industries has fueled conflicts with indigenous people in Papua. Local media reports have mentioned only five such conflicts, according to the Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA), an NGO ­ a figure it says would be much higher if greater access to data on land conflicts was available.

“That’s why we need to be alert and watch every policy,” Franky said, “because the failure to monitor Sumatra and Kalimantan has resulted in uncontrollable permit issuance there.”

Article published by Hans Nicholas Jong

West Papua MSG Membership Close

February 15, 2018

West Papua MSG Membership Close
5/02/2018 Meriba Tulo

West Papua’s application to become a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group has gained traction, with MSG Leaders referring the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) to the MSG Secretariat for deliberation.

Prime Minister & MSG Chair, Peter O’Neill, made this known at the conclusion of the Leaders’ Summit Wednesday afternoon.

According to Mr O’Neill, the leaders of Melanesia have approved new criteria guidelines for observers, associate members and full members to the sub-regional grouping.

Currently, the ULMWP has an observer status to the MSG, with Indonesia already an associate member to this sub-regional grouping.

However, with this new move, West Papua, or the ULMWP at least could be one step closer to becoming a full member of MSG.

ULMWP Leader, Benny Wenda, was present at the closing of the MSG Leaders’ Summit, and was pleased with the outcome.

When addressing Melanesian Leaders, Wenda called on the MSG to support West Papua, in the same way that the MSG had shown support for the FLNKS in New Caledonia in their push for independence.

Indonesia, however, called on the MSG to respect its sovereignty, calling the West Papuan issue an internal matter – their comments not go down well with Mr Wenda, when speaking to EMTV.

“West Papua Is a Melanesian issue, which must be dealt with by Melanesians – Indonesia is not Melanesia.”

Top UN Human Rights Official Completes Mission to Indonesia

February 14, 2018
thediplomat-zeid-ra%E2%80%99ad-al-hussein-553x360.jpg Top UN Human Rights Official Completes Mission to Indonesia
While proposed new laws may threaten human rights in Indonesia, the country continues to engage positively with the UN and other bodies.

Top UN Human Rights Official Completes Mission to Indonesia

While proposed new laws may threaten human rights in Indonesia, the country continues to engage positively with the UN and other bodies.
By Jack Britton
February 15, 2018

In early February, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, conducted his first official mission to Indonesia since taking office in 2014. During the three day visit, February 5-7, Al Hussein met with President Joko Widodo, high level government representatives including the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of religion, civil society organizations, religious leaders, and the three Indonesian national human rights institutions. It was the first mission by the UN’s top human rights official to Indonesia since the previous high commissioner, Navi Pillay, in 2012. Whilst some breakthroughs have been made regarding the advancement of human rights across the archipelago, a number of issues raised as concerns by the former high commissioner remain unresolved.

In Indonesia, people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities have not been provided with the protection urged by Navi Pillay during her 2012 visit, and are now facing unprecedented criminalization under the new formulation of the Draft Revised Penal Code that outlaws homosexual relations. The 1965 Blasphemy Law that Navi Pillay recommended be repealed remains a source of human rights violations and discrimination against religious minorities. The law is currently, for the third time, having its constitutionality tested by a judicial review in the Constitutional Court. The discriminatory enforcement of Sharia in Aceh that the former high commissioner called out also continues to create an environment of intimidation and fear in the autonomous region.

On the other hand, Indonesia has continued to engage with and largely fulfill its commitments to the international human rights treaty and charter-based bodies it is a party to. The state’s impressive tradition of ratifying human rights conventions has continued with its ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

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While human rights are generally experiencing a decline across the region, Indonesia has demonstrated its commitment to human rights through facilitating the visits of a number of special procedures including the special rapporteur on health and adequate housing. Indonesia’s active participation in the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva last year and its adoption of the majority of recommendations put forth by countries reviewing its human rights performance further demonstrated its openness in engaging with the international community to advance human rights.

During the mission, the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), in performing one of its roles as a bridge between civil society and the international human rights mechanisms of the United Nations, facilitated a meeting between civil society organizations, victims groups, and the delegation of the high commissioner. An open forum was created in which survivors of past human rights abuses, women human rights defenders, victims of various forms of gender-based violence, and academics, had the opportunity to deliver oral statements to the high commissioner. Al Hussein expressed his admiration and appreciation for the bravery and strength of the civil society movement.

Komnas Perempuan, in an additional closed meeting with the high commissioner, voiced its appreciation for the official mission and delivered updates about a number of issues pertaining to violence against women and the situation of women’s human rights in Indonesia. Child marriage, polygamy, virginity testing in the military, the criminalization of abortions, cyber violence against women, gender based violence in contexts of natural resources conflicts, past human rights violations, violence and discrimination against religious minorities, and the implementation of the Qanun Jinayat — or the Sharia-based Islamic Criminal Code — in Aceh were among the issues that Komnas Perempuan highlighted during the visit.

The Draft Revised Penal Code and the Elimination of Sexual Violence Bill, two pieces of legislation currently being debated in Indonesia’s People’s Representative Council (DPR), were also on the agenda during the visit. The Elimination of Sexual Violence Bill as it was originally formulated is a piece of draft legislation that provides for comprehensive protection and rehabilitation measures for victims of sexual violence, focuses on preventing the occurrence of violence, and outlines new sentencing options for perpetrators Speaking in a press conference, Al Hussein urged the country’s legislature to pass the important piece of draft legislation that provides “essential protection for victims of sexual and gender based violence.”

The other piece of draft legislation that became a focus for the top human rights official was the Draft Revised Penal Code that is set to be passed into law on February 14. Alarmingly, Article 484 Paragraph 1(E) of the code currently makes extramarital sex a criminal offence able to be punished by up to five years in jail. This is a provision that human rights activists are afraid will result in the criminalization of rape victims, an increase in child marriage and a rise in vigilante mob actions. The high commissioner also voiced his concern about the Draft Penal Code explaining “Moreover, should the penal code be revised with some of the more discriminatory provisions, it will seriously impede the Government’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and would run counter to its international human rights obligations.”

In general, Indonesia’s openness and transparency in receiving the mission must be applauded, as should the state’s offer to facilitate a mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to Papua that materialized during the visit.

As Indonesia enters a year that is to be defined by political power struggles with simultaneous election of regional heads looming in 2018 and the presidential election in 2019, Al Hussein’s visit will hopefully act as a reminder for Indonesia to hold on to its tradition of tolerance and to strive for the advancement of human rights in a region were human rights are generally experiencing regression.

Jack Britton is a translator, researcher and freelance writer currently embedded with the Indonesian National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Papuan priest puts life on the line to fight injustice

February 12, 2018

Papua priest puts life on the line to fight injustice

Death threats don’t deter Father Djonga from defending the poor or acting as a broker between the army and insurgents
Ryan Dagur, Jakarta Indonesia
February 12, 2018

Father John Djonga, a 59-year-old priest of Jayapura Diocese in Papua, is known for his bravery in speaking out on behalf of the underprivileged. (Photo by Ryan Dagur/

Death threats, difficult terrain and police interrogations for suspected treason last year have not dented the spirit of Father John Djonga to render service in Indonesia’s restive province of Papua.

The 59-year-priest of Jayapura Diocese has more than 30 years of service in the region’s remote areas, which are not only difficult to reach but also greatly impoverished despite the area being rich in natural resources.

Djonga arrived as a catechist in 1988 from his home on Flores, east of Komodo Island. Inspired by a shortage of priests in the area, he attended a seminary in Jayapura Diocese in 1990 and was ordained a priest in 2001.

Risky business

Performing religious duty in Papua is a risky business. The Christian-majority region has emerged as a conflict hot spot since it was annexed by Indonesia over 50 years ago.

A pro-independence group has stepped up its insurgent attacks in

recent years, leaving a trail of casualties in its wake despite police reporting numerous arrests.

One report by the International Coalition for Papua found that arrests had quadrupled from 1,083 in 2015 to 5,361 in 2016, mostly during peaceful protests in support of the group.

Recent reports suggest the government’s claims that human rights are improving in Papua are not accurate.

Djonga, who now serves as a parish priest at the Christ the King Church in Wamena, said he often runs into people who claim they have been persecuted by local security forces. Some report being tortured — and the priest is not afraid to demand soldiers be disciplined when they step out of line.

"I chose to be a priest not only for [believers] but also for pro-independence groups, most of whom hide in the forests," he told

Few priests choose to fraternize with the insurgents, he said.

"They are also my flock and are in need of service regardless of their political affiliations," he said.

"I am close to them. I’m also close to the soldiers and to the police," he added.

He said he hopes to help scale down the attacks by playing something of an intermediary role.

"Though military personnel or some pro-independence group are Muslims, when I talk about humanity there are no barriers between us," he said.

However, he admitted he receives death threats and other forms of intimidation on a regular, sometimes daily basis.

After complaining to the Papua governor in 2007 about how the military was using tactics to intimidate local people, he said he received a terrifying phone call from an unidentified military man.

"[He] told me I would be buried alive 700 meters deep," Father Djonga said.

"But I’m not scared as I know this is the risk attached to my ministry."

In 2016 he was questioned by the police for leading a prayer service attended by members of an alleged Papuan separatist group. He was later released without charge.

"I told the police that whether they are pro-Indonesian or if they want to be independent, I must serve them. That is my duty," he said.

Beyond the violence

Diet-related health risks and low levels of education are among other issues that plague the region, Father Djonga said.

Over 72 children in Asmat district, a remote area in the country’s easternmost province, have died in recent months due to malnutrition while about 650 have contracted measles, said local district chief Elisa Kambu.

Medical and military teams were sent to the district in response and a state of emergency was declared on Jan. 15, according to media reports.

For Father Djonga, such stories of tragic deaths are nothing new.

Last year he was involved in an investigation with a group of volunteers to document the mass deaths of nearly 100 people in Yahukimo district. The deaths occurred over a period of months.

"Tragic deaths like this are an oft-repeated story here and yet we are not seeing any truly monumental effort to stop it," he said.

Infuriated by what he sees as the state’s lackluster efforts, he went on a national TV station last month and criticized the government.

His comments on MetroTV sparked a fierce debate with a government minister who appeared on the same show.

"I told him my remarks are based on real experience. There are clinics in Papua but no nurses and medicines. How can the government promise it will improve the situation if it doesn’t even consider basic problems like this?" he said.

He said children are being robbed of a decent standard of education by similar shortfalls that result in shortages of staff and resources.

"School buildings exist but there are no teachers, let alone books," he said.

"I have worked here for 30 years but there has been no significant change," he lamented.

An ‘ideal shepherd’

Father Djonga said involving himself in social issues is part of answering God’s calling.

"As a pastor I serve my flock with the sacraments. But that is a standard task. I also feel obliged to be directly involved with the everyday issues and problems they face," he said.

He urged greater church involvement in Papua given the huge challenges the people there now face.

"This is a field that needs liberation missions," he said.

He believes Jesus would have encouraged those of faith, and who are able, to get involved and help out in the troubled province, now deeply mired in social and political problems.

In recognition of his struggle, Father Djonga received the Yap Thiam Hien Award in 2009. He shared Indonesia’s most prestigious human rights award that year with a Chinese lawyer who was a renowned activist.

His best friend, Rev. Benny Giay of the Synod of Christian Churches in Papua, said one of Father Djonga’s strengths is his ability to mingle with people across the whole social spectrum.

"He is an ideal shepherd," Rev. Giay said. "He is a pastor who wants to drown in the swamps of people’s suffering."

"He can also instruct people. He tells people: ‘Let’s get out of this situation,’" he said.

Theo Hesegem, chief of the Advocacy Network for Law Enforcement and Human Rights, said Father Djonga is not afraid to put his life at risk as he fights to improve people’s lives.

"We work together a lot and his commitment is clear," he said.

"He is a great example of a pastor who wants to stand on the front line to fight for justice.”

Request of statement of support for the ULMWP’s application for full Membership of the MSG

February 9, 2018

Dear friends,

Re: Request of statement of support for the ULMWP’s application for full Membership of the MSG

Benny Wenda has asked us to write to you on behalf of the people of West Papua, to notify you of the ULMWPs intention to apply for full Membership status of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, and to ask for your support.

Please see Benny Wenda’s message below.

In their current status as Observers, they have been invited to attend the upcoming Leaders’ Summit (between the 10th and 15th of this month) by H.E the Hon PM O’Neill.

Any public statements of support would be gratefully appreciated by the people of West Papua at this crucial time.

Likewise, we would be grateful for any assistance with forwarding this to your networks.

Our very best wishes to you,

In solidarity and kindness,


Office of Benny Wenda


Private statement from Chairman of the ULMWP Benny Wenda.

As Chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) and on behalf of your Melanesian brothers and sisters just across the border, I am appealing to all activists and solidarity groups in PNG for your urgent help.

The ULMWP will be representing our people at the Melanesian Spearhead Group Leaders’ Summit taking place in Port Moresby next week, and seeking full Membership for West Papua. The time is right to see the Melanesian community welcome their brothers and sisters in West Papuaas equalsand we need you to raise your voices in solidarity to ensure our message is heard.

The West Papuan people continue to suffer brutality at the hands of our oppressorsdaily. International experts are in agreement that what is taking place is nothing less than a genocide against indigenous Papuans and that without intervention our people will not only be a minority, they will be in danger of being wiped out entirely. I urge you to stand together as Melanesians to do everything in your power to stand up for the survival of West Papuans, for the children of the next generation, before it’s too late.

The MSG has long been founded on the principles of advocating for the right to self-determination of all Melanesians and pioneered support for our brothers and sisters in Kakaky to have their voices heard in an independence referendum. We call on them now to also acknowledge the political aspirations of the West Papuan people, who have, in vast numbers expressed their will for self-determination and assistance from the international community, via their petition to the United Nations. Our people risked their lives to add their names and to have their cry for freedom heard. Please hear this cry and rise up with us- your brothers and sisters need your help and are relying on the compassion of the people of PNG.

With respect, I thank you.

Benny Wenda. Chair of the ULMWP