Criminalisation remains serious threat for activists, human rights defenders

Jawa Pos – December 8, 2019
Usman Hamid and Suciwati speaking at event marking 15 years since Munir’s assasianation (Jawa Pos)

Muhammad Ridwan – Becoming an activist, especially a human rights defender, often means confronting the law. Human rights defenders are not exempt from the treat of criminalisation.

The threat of criminalisation was revealed from data compiled by the Civil Society Coalition for the Protection and Defense of Human Rights (HAM).

The Coalition recorded that between January 2014 and November 2019 there were 73 cases of violations against human rights defenders. These violations were dominated by the criminalisation of human rights defenders.

Indonesian Human Protection Foundation (YPII) Advocacy Division Head Ainul Yaqin said that criminalisation has become a form of terror against human rights defenders. Meanwhile the majority of perpetrators who violated the rights of human rights defenders were the police with 27 cases.

“So far there has been no serious effort [to address this] by the state. Particularly from the police in solving cases of violence against HAM defenders in Indonesia. So, the pattern of violence against defenders is unfortunately the same and continues to reoccur”, said Yaqin in the Cikini area of Central Jakarta on Sunday December 8.

Yaqin explained that the forms of criminalisation experienced by activists included intimidation, violence disguised as ordinary crimes by unidentified individuals, the hacking of social media accounts and mobile phones and the criminalisation of human rights defenders.

Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) Deputy Chairperson for Advocacy, Era Purnama Sari, said that most of the reports on the criminalisation of human rights defenders are never pursued by police. According to Sari, this is caused by the lack of independence on the part of the Bhayangkara corps (as the police are known) in following up on reported cases.

“If looked at, the pattern of cases of threats against HAM defenders are the criminalisation of actors who fight for agrarian rights, and the criminalisation of freedom of expression on social media when it is critical of the government. The majority of these cases of criminalisation are never followed up [by police]. No need to follow it up, just except it [they say]”, said Sari.

Sari believes that the lack of independence on the part of police has occurred as a consequence of regulations which fail to side with human rights defenders. One of these is National Police Chief Regulation (Perkapolri) Number 3/2019.

“One of the norms in the Perkapolri states that police can provide security for vital national objects and specific objects. [The term] specific objects is very broad in meaning. Then this security is embodied in cooperative agreements with corporations. It’s this which becomes the entry point for the police to provide security to companies”, said Sari.

Sari is therefore asking that a number of regulations be reevaluated. The aim being to provide support for human rights defenders who are criminalised because there has yet to be a single court ruling against perpetrators of attacks on human rights defenders.

“To this day there has been no court ruling which we could read and analysed related to attacks against HAM defenders, both our NGO [non-government organisation] friends as well as farmers who defend human rights”, said Sari in conclusion.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Kriminalisasi Masih Jadi Ancaman Bagi Aktivis Pembela HAM”.]