September 3, 2021
President Joko Widodo Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara No. 3 Jakarta 10110, Indonesia
Re: Concerns about human rights defenders under the risk of persecution in Indonesia
Dear President Widodo,
Advocacy Forum (AF) is a leading non-profit, non-governmental organization working to promote the rule of law and uphold international human rights standards in Nepal. Since its establishment in 2001, AF has been at the forefront of human rights advocacy and actively confronting the deeply entrenched culture of impunity in Nepal.
We are writing to you with regards to our concerns that human rights defenders, Fatia Maulidiyanti from the leading human rights group, the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), and Haris Azhar, the Executive Director of Lokataru, may be prosecuted for expressing opinion during an online talk show on YouTube regarding links between the military and mining concessions in Papua.
According to the information, in the video, the two human rights defenders discussed the results of research undertaken by several human rights organizations on the involvement of current and retired army personnel in the gold mining business in the Blok Wabu area in the Intan Jaya district of Papua. They also referenced one of the mining companies involved, PT. Tobacom Del Mandiri, a subsidiary of the Toba Sejahtera Group whose shares are owned by the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan.
Following the video, on August 26, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan issued a subpoena to Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar. They were asked to explain to the minister the motive for posting the video. In addition, they were asked to apologize publicly within five days to the Minister via Haris Azhar’s YouTube channel, on mass media, and online media and promise not to repeat the act. If this were not done, his legal counsel would take legal action.
The legal action includes Panjaitan and his team file charges under Article 27 Paragraph (3) of the Electronic, Information and Transactions Law (UU ITE) for online defamation punishable by up to six years imprisonment and two other articles in the Criminal Code. This includes Article 310 for “intentionally harming someone’s honor or reputation” in the form of slander, punishable by up to nine months imprisonment, and Article 311 for defamation, which carries a more severe penalty of up to four years’ imprisonment.
We are concerned that these actions by the Coordinating Minister are a form of judicial harassment and abuse of power. Both the human rights defenders have a right to express their opinion as provided in Indonesia’s Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Indonesia in 2005.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression has affirmed that defamation laws should reflect the importance of the open debate about matters of public interest and the principle that public figures are required to tolerate a greater degree of criticism than private citizens. In General Comment 34, the UN Human Rights Committee urged states to decriminalize defamation and called on those retaining criminal defamation provisions to ensure that they do not carry the threat of imprisonment.
Therefore, we urge the Indonesian government to:
- Drop the threat of prosecution against the two human rights defenders, Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar, immediately;
- The National Commission on Human Rights to identify Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar as human rights defenders whose work should be protected;
- Provide a preventive action on criminalization against human rights defenders and take corrective measures for the abuse of authority of the state of officials who intimidate human rights defenders;
- Revise or repeal every discriminative and repressive regulation, including the articles about defamation, which tends to repress human rights defenders’ freedom of opinion.
We convey our sincere hope that you will take these steps to address the concerns highlighted above.
Om Prakash Sen Thakuri Executive Director Advocacy Forum - Nepal
Consulate of Indonesia in Kathmandu, Nepal