Indonesia has implemented many positive changes during its transition to democracy in the past 16 years. However, the continued lack of accountability for past and ongoing violations of human rights threatens lasting progress. The election of a new parliament and president this year provide an opportunity to firmly break with the past. Following the parliamentary elections of April 9 and with the third direct presidential election fast approaching, we call upon the incoming government of Indonesia to fully and meaningfully address the legacy of impunity for past human rights violations.
Since the end of the Suharto dictatorship, Indonesia has ratified key human rights treaties and established or strengthened mechanisms such as the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to begin a process of reform. However, many attempts to deal with the abuses committed by the New Order regime have been half-hearted at best or clearly designed to fail. Human rights atrocities demanding justice include the massacres of 1965-1967 that brought Suharto to power through the illegal invasion and occupation of Timor-Leste to the devastating military operations in Aceh, West Papua and elsewhere and the enforced disappearances and systematic rapes of May 1998 which led to the end of the regime.
In such an atmosphere, it is not surprising that security forces continue to operate with impunity: Detachment 88 regularly engages in extrajudicial killings in the name of fighting terrorism. Kopassus has been accused of assassinating political leaders in Aceh. And Brimob and other security and intelligence agencies regularly attack indigenous activists in West Papua. The historical persecution of ethnic minorities, as well as suspected PKI supporters and their families, continues. The state is not only failing to protect minorities from fundamentalist groups, but supports their persecution through the enactment of Joint Ministerial Decree 3/2008. Other recent legislation, such as the 2008 anti-pornography law and the 2013 law on civil organizations, contributes to violations of freedom of expression and association. These actions have not only emboldened fundamentalist groups, but send the wrong messages to police and local officials. The incoming government should act to repeal these restrictive laws and actively work to overturn illegal local by-laws that restrict freedom of religion.
Law and Justice
Rather than enact draconian legislation, the new government should continue the process by ratifying international human rights instruments, such as the International Convention against Enforced Disappearances and the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, and bringing international standards into national law. Komnas HAM must receive the resources and government support needed to carry out its mandate, and the government should act on its recommendations to pursue criminal cases against those responsible for past abuses such as the May 1998 riots and the 1965-1967 massacres. The decade old promise of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to bring to justice the authors of the murder of human rights activist Munir should finally be kept. The government should provide meaningful reparations for the victims, survivors and their families of egregious human rights crimes. The Indonesian military (TNI) must be brought fully under civilian control and the rule of law. Proposed legislation requiring military personnel accused of violating civilian rights to submit to civilian courts should be passed.
The new government should re-evaluate its exceptions to the recommendations of the UN’s Second Universal Periodic Review (2012) and commit to their implementation, including abolition of the death penalty, and ending the use of articles of the Criminal Code – especially Articles 106 and 110 – to criminalize freedom of expression.
Furthermore, the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Timor-Leste should not be limited to meetings between officials, but must also include building genuine relationships between peoples. The deeply flawed Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) must not be the last word. The new government of Indonesia must fully implement the recommendations of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), CTF, and the UN’s 2005 Commission of Experts, including security sector reforms, an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the occupation, the opening of all relevant historical archives, including those of the TNI, and reparations for victims – starting first with those who continue to suffer as a result of the human rights violations committed against them. Indonesia should join with Timor-Leste in a Missing Persons Commission to reunify separated children and identify the whereabouts of disappeared persons. The new Indonesian government should seek quick agreement on the final section of the border with Indonesia. The international community, especially major supporters of the New Order regime such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia, should contribute to such efforts at justice and reconciliation (through official apologies, financial reparations, access to archives, and prosecution of their nationals).
Indonesian security forces operate with near impunity in the provinces of West Papua and Papua. The environment for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly has deteriorated significantly in the past year as a result of an increasingly repressive approach to the policing of peaceful political activities. The number of political arrests more than doubled in 2013 and the number of reported cases of torture and ill-treatment quadrupled. In conflict areas, police ‘sweepings’ that drive villagers from their homes led to further violence and arbitrary arrests of civilians. The Indonesian government continues to jail peaceful protesters, many for raising or simply possessing the banned West Papuan Morning Star flags. The new Indonesian government should release the dozens of political prisoners from West Papua and elsewhere. Restrictions on access to West Papua by international journalists, human rights investigators, and humanitarian organizations must end. The new government should open internationally-mediated negotiations with West Papuan civil society on their political status and other human rights issues.
For too long, the Indonesian government has allowed impunity to prevail for past crimes against humanity, allowing perpetrators of some of the most horrendous human rights abuses of the past century not only to remain unpunished, but to continue to influence developments in Indonesia. The new government must make a priority of ending the impunity and culture of violence that continues to plague the country. The new government must commit to full justice and accountability for past crimes, impose a zero tolerance for new abuses, and implement the structural reforms needed to bring police and military fully under civilian control and the rule of law.
Asian Human Rights Commission
Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR)
Focus on the Global South
International Coalition for Papua
People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning (PDHRE)
Pax Christi Aotearoa-New Zealand
West Papua Action Auckland
Australia East Timor Friendship Association South Australia Inc
Australians for a Free East Timor, Darwin, Australia
AWPA South Australia
Watch Indonesia!, Germany
West Papua Netzwerk, Germany
Politik Rakyat, Indonesia
National Papua Solidarity (NAPAS), Indonesia
Pantau Foundation, Indonesia
Japan East Timor Coalition
Foundation Pro Papua, The Netherlands
Swedish East Timor Committee
Swedish Free Papua Association
Asosiasaun HAK, Timor-Leste
Lao Hamutuk, Timor-Leste
Campaign for Peace and Democracy, USA
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), USA
Genocide Watch, USA
West Papua Advocacy Team, USA