Rights commission suspects Covid-19 used to harass activists

CNN Indonesia – August 3, 2020
Officials outside Walhi office prepare to forcibly take activists to hospital – July 31, 2020 (Istimewa)

Jakarta – The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) suspects that an incident in which the director of the East Kalimantan chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and two other activists were forcibly taken to a local hospital for isolation had no relationship with Covid-19.

Komnas HAM commissioner for monitoring and investigation, Choirul Anam, says that there are indications of serious violation based on testimonies obtained about the incident.

“First, there are strong indications of health protocol violations. Second, indications of coercion, although the information obtained by Komnas HAM up until today found that the test results, both positive and negative, were not provided to Walhi and Pokja 30 [Working Group 30]”, said Anam in a statement on Sunday August 2.

Anam suggested that there were no health issues involved in the three activists being forcibly taken to hospital, even though the initial pretext was that they had to be quarantined because they tested positive for Covid-19.

“There are strong suspicions over what was done including the random sampling selection, being picked up, not being given swab test results, moreover after they arrived at the hospital (there was no) positive or negative result. There are strong indications that forcibly picking up [the activists] was not in the interests of health”, he asserted.

It is because of this that Anam said they will follow up the case based on the reports that they received. Moreover the three activists are often involved in cases related to human rights.

If during the investigation evidence if found that there was a misuse of authority based on handling Covid-19, he continued, Komnas HAM will pursue the matter legally with the Covid-19 Task Force.

Earlier, East Kalimantan Walhi Director Yohana Tiko revealed a number of irregularities when he and two other activists were tested for Covid-19. On Wednesday July 29 officials claiming to be from the Samarinda Health Office arrived at the Walhi office.

The officials told them they were conducting random swab tests. Then a day after being tested, they were informed verbally that they had tested positive, but without being shown any written test results.

On Friday July 31, officials returned to pick up the three activists on the grounds that they had to be quarantined at the Samarinda IA Moeis Regional Public Hospital (RSUD).

However the officials were not wearing full protective health gear in accordance with protocols and failed to show any identify or written authorisation.

Walhi East Kalimantan and the Working Group 30 are currently investigating several cases such as an oil spill in Balikpapan Bay and have been protesting the Draft Omnibus Law on Job Creation and the Draft Law on Coastal and Small Island Regional Zoning.

Samarinda Regional Disaster Relief Agency (BPBD) head of logistics and emergencies, Ifran, has confirmed that they were asked for assistance to transport three people suspected of being Covid-19 positive from the Walhi offices to the IA Moeis hospital.

The head of the Disease Control and Eradication (P2P) division at the Samarinda Health Office, Osa Rafshodia, says that the actions by his office were carried out in accordance with the technical guidelines from the Department of Health.

“Indeed, under the juknis [technical guidelines] [we don’t have] to show anything. We just convey the swab [test] results. If you ask, the documentation refers to health department regulations, indeed we don’t provide any kind of documentation”, he asserted. (fey/bir)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Komnas HAM Duga Penjemputan Aktivis Walhi Tak Terkait Corona”.]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20200802150021-20-531389/komnas-ham-duga-penjemputan-aktivis-walhi-tak-terkait-corona