Human Rights are (Still) under the Threats: Government has not Fulfilled its Human Rights Commitment Promises.

Every 10th of December, the world celebrates International Human Right day. It was established to commemorate the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. Indonesia itself has adopted the UDHR into the 1945 Constitution, after Soeharto’s authoritarian power collapsed, through series of constitutional amendments. However, human rights commitment up to this date is still challenged with series of ignorance and violations, including the lack of commitment to seriously improve, fulfil, and protect the human rights.

As in previous years, Indonesia’s index of freedom is still in the range of “partly free”, in which the rule of law enforcement is a component with the lowest achievement (Freedom House, 2016). On the other hand, Reporters Without Borders placed Indonesia at the 130 / 180 with the press freedom index at 41,72, decreased 0,97 percent from last year. The assessment from those two international organizations toward Indonesia’s freedom situation in fact does not show the change to a better future for the last two years. A number of intimidation cases toward journalists, dissolutions of discussion, criminalization toward legitimate expression either online or offline, still occur. The situation is even worse in the midst of 2016.

For the past few years, Government of Indonesia has not presented itself as a guardian for human rights commitment, despite the fact that it is mentioned on various legal documents as well as national and international forum. In some opportunities, government’s decisions also got pressures from extremist groups, either with the religious background or ultra-nationalist right wing groups, which have the tendency of exerting repression towards various forms of expressions from vulnerable groups.  It starts from LGBT group, Syiah, Ahmadiyah, 1965 victims, cultural actors, to the repression in the form of criminalization on public criticism. For the past year, Government has let the law enforcement officers to be under the control of the interests of those intolerant groups. The use of criminalization provisions such as for defamation, blasphemy, and treason, are still very present in 2016.

Some threats related to human rights in the past year recorded in the following brief descriptions:

First; the end of 2016 was closed with the failure of Government of Indonesia to guarantee comfort and security in allowing online freedom of expression rights. Revision of Law No. 11 year 2008 on Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE Law), was expected to guarantee the protection for freedom of speech and expression, yet in reality it still gives the possibility for human rights violation. Besides providing legitimacy for the online criminal act, this Revision of Law also provides absolute power for the government to block the internet content which is considered to be violating the law. Without given adequate coverage and procedure, it will surely have the potential to hamper people’s right to enjoy and get information, including the freedom to deliver speech and ideas.

 Second; the arrest of a number of people with the charge of assault at the end of the year also showed the carelessness of law enforcement officers in applying the provision. For example; the arrest of hundreds of Papuan rights activists who had peaceful rally on 1 December 2016 to celebrate West Irian Independence, and the arrest of some people who were suspected involved on 2 December 2016. The use of this provision without the clarity of its elements will surely be dangerous for the continuity of constitutional democratic system which basically emphasizes on the freedom of speech and expression.

Third; the intimidation case toward journalist was also still occurred in 2016, for example photo snatching (Malang), expulsion (Banceuy, Dogiyai), reporting prohibition and persecution (Padang, Bulukumba, Lampung). Government of Indonesia commitment on Windhoek Declaration 1991 is questioned, by considering that intimidation and violence toward journalist are forms of neglect of journalism independency and diversity. Protection toward journalists is an essential foundation in democracy, which is intended to increase access to sources of information, stimulating informed analysis and promote the expression of diverse opinions, particularly in moments of crises (Frank La Rue, 2012)

Fourth; the appointment of General Wiranto as Coordinating Minister for Politic, Legal, and Security Affairs was a major setback in 2016. In 2003, Wiranto was indicted by UN Serious Crimes Unit to be responsible on the massacres and series of persecutions in Timor Leste. National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), in its report, mentioned that Wiranto also had to be responsible on Trisakti Shooting, 1998 May Riots, also Semanggi 1 and Semanggi 2 Riots. The appointment of Wiranto was a big disappointment for the civil society due to his position in the government will hamper the process in resolving human rights violations in the past, of which he himself is suspected to be involved in the violations. Government’s decision can be interpreted as a form of perpetuation of impunity and provides a bad precedent for all the efforts in creating peace, also for the enforcement rule of law.

Fifth; government also continues the practice of death sentences. There were 4 people sentenced to death for narcotics case, of which the execution would be on July 29th 2016. However, they were eventually executed although three of them still had not got any responses for their proposed clemencies. On the same date, the authority postponed the death execution of ten death row convicts at the last minute so that the government could re-examine again their cases, after given pressures from national and international communities. Besides of its inhumanity, this practice also does not go along with the fragility of Indonesia criminal justice system, of which the chance of wrongful conviction are high. In some cases, the wrongful convictions are often inevitable in the practice of criminal justice system.

In the International Human Rights Day this year, UN emphasized that everyone should stand together for everyone’s human rights. Extremist movement, intolerance, and the dissemination of fear were bad trend in 2016, thus UN member countries have to “reaffirm the humanity and make real changes”. Government of Indonesia is required to promote civil liberties and enforce rule of law as mandated in The 1945 Constitution. International Human Rights Day celebration this year should become a moment of reflection for Government of Indonesia in fulfilling its responsibilities and human rights commitment.  Government should prove to its citizen and also be fair and transparent to everyone under its sovereignty. Therefore, Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) calls for:

  1. Government of Indonesia to stand on the foundations of justice and rule of law, and will not subject to political interests which have the potential in threatening the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights.
  2. Urge government of Indonesia to resolve past gross human rights violation cases by implementing various promises and commitment to solve the cases as described in Nawacita vision as well as RPJMN 2015 – 2019.Government of Indonesia also should provide recovery mechanism to the victims and their families in order to promote social, economic and cultural aspect that used to be taken away from them.
  3. Urge government of Indonesia to halt and avoid any form of violations, restrictions, and intimidations toward any activity of which the rights have been guaranteed by The 1945 Constitution. Any form of crimes toward enjoyment of freedom of speech and expression should be eliminated. Anyone who tries to tackle and limit the enjoyment of freedom of speech and expression should be put through a fair and accountable legal process, to ensure that government also involve in it.
  4. Government to re-identify the whole human rights commitment and promises that has been mentioned in various state documents as well as various statements on a number of various state events, so that the promises and commitments could be implemented into series of policies and programs.

Jakarta, 12 December 2016