Coalition urges Jokowi, police chief to stop criminalising political opponents

CNN Indonesia – January 10, 2024
Widodo (left) inaugurates national police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo – Undated (Setpres)

Jakarta – The Civil Society Coalition for Security Sector Reform is asking that all legal proceedings against political opponents that smack of politics as well as socialisation and campaign activities in the 2024 elections be stopped.

The Coalition is made up of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial), Amnesty International Indonesia, the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH), the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and the Centra Initiative.

The Coalition believes that currently the momentum to garner voter sympathy along with political education for the public through a contest of ideas and policy preferences is actually leading to a rise in police reports.

"The reporting that is getting into the realm of criminalisation appears to be primarily directed at the opposition parties (01 and 03) [the presidential tickets of Anies Baswedan-Muhaimin Iskandar and Ganjar Pranowo-Mahfud MD], and even election organisers", said YLBHI Chairperson Muhammad Isnur in a written statement on Wednesday January 10.

Based on the Coalition's data as of January, at least six police reports have been made by supporters of the number 2 ticket, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and running mate Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who is President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's eldest son.

This includes a report against Pranowo-Mahfud election campaign team (TPN) spokesperson Aiman Witjaksono over a statement that the state apparatus is not being neutral in the elections, which has reached the criminal investigation stage, and a report against an Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu) chairperson and a member who found vice presidential candidate Gibran guilty of an electoral violation for handing out milk on Car Free Day in Jakarta.

Then there was a report against the Batam and Riau Islands Bawaslu over the removal of Prabowo-Gibran billboards and a report against former Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Roy Suryo on charges of hate speech against Gibran.

Next there was a report against stand-up comedian Aulia Rakhman who has been declared a suspect over comic material used during a Desak Anies (Challenge Anies) event in Lampung, North Sumatra, as well as a report against Anies Baswedan himself over remarks about the extent of plantation land owned by Prabowo.

"The Coalition regrets the use of 'rubber' [catch all] articles that are very anti-democratic, such as defamation, the spread of fake news, blasphemy and so on, which are known to be used to silence the voices of citizens, journalists, activists and opponents who are critical of the government", said Isnur.

The Coalition believes that the remarks and actions that have been reported to the police must be viewed as legitimate activity in the context of the election socialisation and campaigns as regulated under Law Number 7/2017 on Elections and the 1945 Constitution.

This is because dealing with accusations or alleged election violations found by any party come under the authority of the election supervisors, namely Bawaslu.

And if there are accusations or alleged electoral violations by election organisers, the General Elections Commission (KPU) or Bawaslu, then it should be reported to the Election Organisers Ethics Council (DKPP).

"Only allegations of genuine crimes outside of the context of socialisation activities and election campaigns can be reported to the police directly. The cases reported above are not genuine crimes", said Isnur.

The Coalition also noted that police reports over socialisation and election campaign activities are clearly problematic, both in formal and material terms.

First, because the rubber articles used under the Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) Law are often used to silence critical voices such as activists, journalists and political opponents of the authorities or specifically the regime of President Widodo.

For example the cases against human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar, Save Indonesia Action Coalition (KAMI) activists Jumhur Hidayat and Syahganda Nainggolan and outspoken government critic Rocky Gerung, as well as many other activists who have fallen victim to these laws.

Second, those making the police reports do not have the appropriate legal standing as victims or parties that have incurred losses. However they have still been processed by the police and taken to the criminal investigation stage such as the cases against Aulia Rakhman and Aiman Witjaksono.

Third, both in terms of those making the reports, those being reported as well as the material reported to police, this clearly gives rise to problems related to the objectivity and independence of the police who receive and investigate reports.

This is because those making reports are usually supporters of the number 2 election ticket of Prabowo-Gibran who are affiliated with the power of the president who is in charge of the police. Meanwhile those being reported over socialisation and campaign activities are opposition election tickets, namely the number 1 and number 3 election tickets of Baswedan-Iskandar and Pranowo-Mahfud.

"The political nuances are very strong and have the potential to be politicised in the legal process. Moreover, the police are currently under the public spotlight as a consequence of serious allegations over the police's lack of neutrality which are currently being discussed by the DPR's [House of Representative] Commission III after being raised by Aiman".

Based on this, the Coalition is asking that all legal proceedings related to election campaign activities be halted.

"Based on this, the Coalition is therefore urging the President and the Kapolri [national police chief] to order a halt to all legal proceedings that smack of politics against the opposition as well as socialisation and election campaign activities", said Isnur.

"This statement of ours is being conveyed for the sake of ensuring the objectivity of law enforcement officials, including maintaining the neutrality of Polri [the national police] and also for the sake of the organisation of elections that are free, honest and fair", he continued. (dis/wis)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Koalisi Sipil Desak Presiden dan Kapolri Setop Proses Hukum Pemilu".]