Amnesty annual report finds human rights situation in Indonesia deteriorating

CNN Indonesia – April 7, 2021
Protesters clash with police during demonstration in Sorong, West Papua – November 27, 2020 (Antara)

Jakarta – Amnesty International's annual report has found that the human rights situation in Indonesia worsened in 2020. Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid highlighted the issue of impunity which continues to haunt Papua and West Papua provinces.

"Throughout 2020, we recorded at least 19 cases of alleged extra-judicial killings by security forces in Papua and West Papua, with a total of 30 deaths", said Hamid as in a press release on Wednesday April 7.

"Incidents such as this continued to be repeated over the first three months of 2021 with four cases which claimed four lives", he added.

CNN Indonesia has tried to confirm the involvement of security forces in the alleged extra-judicial killings with the head of the TNI's (Indonesian military) information centre, Major General Achmad Riad, and Indonesian police spokesperson Inspector General Argo Yuwono. Neither of them has responded.

Quoting from Amnesty's 2020-2021 report, there were 47 cases of extra-judicial killings by security forces in Papua and West Papua between February 2018 and August 2020.

The 47 cases involved 93 victims. In 15 of these cases the alleged perpetrators were police officers, 13 cases were allegedly committed by military personnel and 12 are alleged to have been committed by police and military personnel.

One of the cases highlighted in the report was the murder of Pastor Yeremia Zanambani, the head of the Indonesian Evangelical Christian Church in Hitadipa district, Intan Jaya, Papua.

Local police and military said that Zanambani's death was caused by armed groups in Papua but this had been refuted by Papuan activists who are close to Zanambani's family.

"[Local activists] suspect that the military shot Yeremia during the search for an armed group suspected to have killed two soldiers. During the military operation, many local people fled to the nearest forests or sought protection in nearby areas", read the report.

Meanwhile the number of cases continues to grow with Amnesty saying that the investigations into the extra-judicial killings by security forces are rarely followed up.

As a result security personnel alleged to have committed human rights violations in Papua and West Papua are not punished appropriately.

"If President Joko Widodo truly cares about the lives of the Papuan people then the government must ensure that there is justice and accountability for the deaths that have occurred there", said Hamid.

Right to health

In national terms, Amnesty said that the way the government handled the Covid-19 pandemic has had a very significant impact on human rights – both in terms of the right to health, information, freedom of expression and the right to employment.

In Amnesty's assessment, Indonesia failed to prioritise human rights protection in the prevention, preparation and containment of the spread of Covid-19 as well as in the policies and activities of health workers.

Included in this was the right to health for health workers. Amnesty highlighted the 504 health workers who have died of Covid-19 or because of exhaustion as a consequence of long working hours.

The delays in distributing protective equipments at the start of the pandemic were also a bad mark in the fulfillment of the right to health.

Guarantees of Covid-19 testing for health workers and their families was also often not met and Amnesty found that there were health workers who still had to pay for Covid-19 tests.

Meanwhile the government was assessed as not being transparent in revealing data about the pandemic at the start of last year. They government was also not transparent about data on health workers infected with Covid-19.

During the pandemic meanwhile, Amnesty said that incidents of intimidation against those who expressed their views did not lessen.

Amnesty criticised Indonesian Police Chief Telegram Number ST/1100/IV/HUK.7.1/2020 which instructed police to monitor the internet and take steps to fight "spreaders of fake news" along with those who insulted the president and government officials.

Intimidation of rights defenders

In addition to this, Amnesty also highlighted threats, attacks, intimidation and arbitrary prosecutions against human rights defenders for activities which did not break the law. These efforts were assessed as being an attempt to silence them.

Amnesty noted that there were at least 201 senior human rights defenders and social justice activist who were victims of human rights violations, both online and off-line.

"They were harassed and intimidated just because they criticised the government or spoke about sensitive political issues such as human rights violations and violence in Papua", continued the report. (fey/gil)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Laporan Amnesty: HAM RI Memburuk, 30 Nyawa Melayang di Papua".]