Civil Society Coalition criticises Indonesia’s report on Papua at the UPR Session of the UN

On 9 November 2022, Indonesia passed the periodic monitoring of the promotion of human rights at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Indonesian delegation led and represented by the Minister of Law and Human Rights, Yasonna Laoly, presented the country’s achievements and challenges in terms of national development in the field of human rights in the past 5 years.  The UPR session was also attended by Indonesian human rights institutions and organisations such as Komnas HAM, KontrasS and Amnesty International Indonesia, among many others. The Civil Society Coalition for UPR Reporting consisting of Amnesty International Indonesia, ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, KontraS, KIKA, FreeToBeMe Coalition (FTBM) Indonesia, SAFEnet, and Transmen Indonesia, held a press conference to share their joint analysis and monitoring of the Indonesian government’s report in the UPR session.

The following is a translation of the press release of 11 November 2022, which not only criticises the report of the Government of Indonesia (GoI) but affirms that it is contrary to the reality on the ground:

In the 4th round of the UPR session, the Indonesian Government reported on Indonesia’s achievements in fulfilling human rights, including success in passing the Omnibus Law on Job Creation Law, passing the Law on Sexual Violence Crimes (TP-KS), infrastructure development and additional budget for regional autonomy in Papua, and the successful handling of COVID-19. However, the coalition considers that what is conveyed by the GoI is inversely proportional to the actual situation, which has also been reported by Indonesian civil society through an alternative report sent in March 2022.

On the issue of Business and Human Rights and its relation to environmental justice and development, the GoI cited the Omnibus Law on Job Creation as an achievement in stabilising business with due regard to human rights and the environment. In addition, the government acknowledged that it has followed the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP) on Business and Human Rights and has been a pioneer in holding meetings related to BHR issues. In reality, KontraS noted that Indonesia still often ignores the standards in the UNGP. In carrying out development, Indonesia ignores the interests of the people affected, often intimidates residents and destroys the surrounding environment.

Regarding human rights defenders and freedom of speech, the GoI responded that Indonesia always cooperates with human rights defenders, civil society organisations, journalists, and other civil elements to protect human rights. However, Fatia Maulidiyanti, Coordinator of KontraS, stated, “Human rights defenders in Indonesia face various attacks, where they or their families are followed, surveilled, subjected to criminal charges, and defamed in public”. KontraS emphasises that there must be comprehensive protection of human rights defenders and freedom of expression in law.

On the issue of impunity, PemRI emphasised that the provision of reparations for victims and non-judicial mechanisms are complementary to judicial mechanisms. In addition, PemRI responded that it would adequately investigate past gross human rights violations. However, KontraS, in its alternative report, argues that the government often seeks peace by providing monetary assistance without an effective judicial process and reparations through the Presidential Working Unit for Handling Serious Human Rights Violations and the Integrated Team for Handling Alleged Human Rights Violations.

Regarding the issue of torture, the GoI emphasises security training and efforts to adopt OP-CAT, which has not yet been ratified. Unfortunately, until now, some community groups are still subjected to acts of torture. The lack of ratification of OP-CAT is also a domino effect of the ongoing acts of torture in Indonesia. Indonesia has also yet to draft and implement a special law on torture and ill-treatment. “There is also a need for comprehensive police reform as the dominant actor of the practice of torture,” said Fatia.

PemRI also received many notes and recommendations to immediately abolish the death penalty and moratorium on the death penalty through ratifying the 2nd optional protocol of the ICCPR on the Abolition of the Death Penalty. However, PemRI responded that the death penalty will remain one of the side punishments in the Criminal Code by taking into account applicable human rights standards and still giving death convicts the possibility of commutation. “The rise of unfair trial practices in law enforcement and the war on drugs agenda exacerbates the legitimacy of the practice of the death penalty in Indonesia,” said Charlie Albajili, Head of Advocacy at LBH Jakarta.

Nurina Savitri, campaign manager of Amnesty International Indonesia, criticised the Indonesian government for not providing complete information on the human rights situation in Indonesia during the UPR session. One example is the claim that the Indonesian government is improving legal instruments through the Criminal Code, which thematic articles that potentially violate human rights.

“Articles on defamation, articles on insulting the President and Vice President, articles on insulting the government, articles on treason, these are articles that have been used to silence those who are critical of state policies, to repress those who have different political views. And these articles are maintained in the latest draft of the Criminal Code. At the same time, these rights are guaranteed in international legal instruments that Indonesia has ratified in the form of Laws.

Claims about civil society engagement also do not reflect the actual situation of attacks on human rights defenders in recent years. In Amnesty’s records, during the 2019-2022 period, there were 328 cases of physical and digital attacks against civil society with 834 victims.

On the issue of Papua and the human rights situation there, the GoI said that most cases of violence in Papua have been investigated and perpetrators punished, but in reality no cases involving security forces in Papua, including extrajudicial killings, have been fully investigated and tried in independent courts.

“In the report, the government only presents the situation in Papua from the perspective of infrastructure development, and welfare, while at the same time violence continues. Of course, it is unfair to answer all this violence only with the jargon of infrastructure development,” said Nurina.

In addition, the Coalition also highlighted repeated violations of the Papuan people’s right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the government’s tendency to strengthen the security approach in Papua.

“The Indonesian government has stated that the international community must be able to distinguish between human rights issues in Papua and legitimate law enforcement actions. The question is, has the Indonesian government been able to differentiate?” said Nurina, “Extrajudicial killings, silencing of expression, against Papuan civil society are not law enforcement actions, they are clearly human rights violations.”

The ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, FTBM Coalition and Transmen Indonesia highlighted the issue of human rights related to sexual orientation, gender identity & expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) which was completely ignored by the Indonesian Government both in the report and response during the session. In a joint report with LGBTQIA+ organisations in Indonesia, it was noted that Indonesia has not shown any improvement in the fulfilment of LGBTQIA+ rights. On the contrary, massive and structured discrimination continues to occur and has led to violations of basic rights such as the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to a decent life as well as freedom and security. The rise of discriminatory local regulations such as the 2021 Local Regulation on Prevention and Countermeasures of Sexual Deviant Behaviour (P4S) in Bogor City, and a year earlier a similar local regulation in Cianjur Regency is evidence of structured restrictions on the human rights of LGBTQIA+ people.

During the session, the Indonesian government was silent on the many notes and recommendations that specifically mentioned the issue of human rights violations experienced by LGBTQIA+ people. We noted that Indonesia received at least 2 trigger questions, 13 recommendations and 7 notes from 16 specific countries on the elimination of discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people and the fulfilment of their rights. The notes and recommendations came from Mexico, Brazil, Ireland, Peru, Montenegro, Sweden, Australia and others.

Lini Zurlia, Advocacy Officer at the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus deeply regrets the silence of the Indonesian government on the issue of the fulfilment of SOGI-based human rights. ‘It is certain that almost all notes and recommendations submitted by the 107 participating countries were responded to by the Indonesian Government, except those related to LGBTQIA+. This indicates that there is no recognition of the human rights of LGBTQIA+ people in Indonesia, let alone the intention to protect and fulfil them’ said Lini.

SAFEnet noted in its report that digital rights in Indonesia are also repressed. For example, the government used bandwidth restrictions and internet blackouts in Papua and West Papua in 2019. The ITE Law is also often used to silence civil society voices that contradict the regime. Throughout 2020-2021, there were at least 340 digital attacks on human rights defenders, activists, journalists and other civil society actors. Cases of online gender-based violence (GBV) against women during the Covid-19 pandemic jumped to 510 cases of GBV in 2021, many of which targeted women human rights defenders.

The GoI made no mention of the digital repression experienced by civil society, including citizens in Papua and West Papua and committed to improving governance and protection mechanisms to guarantee the right to security and freedom of expression. Although there is mention of improvements to the revised Criminal Code, it is not explained what exactly the improvements and protections for communities and human rights defenders are in the Criminal Code, which is said to be passed by the end of this year. Similarly, the Indonesian government’s obligation is to clarify what forms of protection are for women in the digital realm.

Damar Juniarto, Executive Director of SAFEnet, believes that the Indonesian government has failed to recognise the importance of fulfilling citizens’ digital rights. “We regret that protection from lawsuits and attacks experienced by human rights defenders and citizens, both physically and online, are not seen as part of improving human rights in Indonesia.”

On the issue of academic freedom, to which the Indonesian Government has given little response in its report, KIKA highlights the pressure from state actors and universities that penalise and silence freedom of opinion and academic expression. Academics become victims of criminalisation, including under the ITE Law, simply for expressing criticism of the government, becoming expert witnesses in court proceedings, and speaking about research findings in public spaces. Meanwhile, students who express criticism are disciplined by universities for asking seemingly controversial questions and ideas.

“We condemn the attacks on scholars and students and call on the international community to join us hand in hand in defence of academic freedom in Indonesia,” said Dhia Al Uyun, Chair of KIKA who is a lecturer at Brawijaya University.