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Dr. H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

President, Republic of Indonesia

Gedung Bina Graha

Jl. Veteran 16

Jakarta Pusat

Re: Human Rights Concerns in Indonesia

Dear President Yudhoyono,

Congratulations on your recent election success. Human Rights Watch would like to say selamat menunaikan tugas, good luck in carrying out your duties as president. We encourage you to build on the successes of your first term in office, and bring new energy to areas including human rights where important objectives have not yet been achieved.

For many years, Human Rights Watch has raised human rights issues with the Indonesian government. With another five-year term, you and your new coalition government have an opportunity, and the responsibility, to address continuing human rights concerns in Indonesia. As Indonesia is a party to the major human rights treaties, we urge you to ensure that Indonesia lives up to its international legal obligations.

To this end, we write to you with specific recommendations on the issues that have important implications for the human rights of Indonesians, specifically corruption, military business, impunity, religious freedom, freedom of expression, the situation in Papua, and child domestic workers. We urge you and your government to give high priority to each of these issues.


Anti-corruption measures are critical to ensuring that human rights protections are enjoyed by all Indonesians. Corruption diverts money that could have been collected as tax revenue away from government coffers-funds that could otherwise have been spent on social spending, such as improving access to health services. To this end, we urge you to deliver on your campaign promises to fight corruption and improve the welfare of Indonesia's citizens. We commend the progress made by the Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK), established under your first administration. Yet current trends undermine the effectiveness and very existence of the commission. In particular, to ensure its continued existence, the National Parliament must pass a bill to reestablish the KPK court by September 30, but the bill is not on the list of priority legislation for the parliament's attention. Further clauses in the bill are under debate that, if included in the final legislation, would erode the commission's effectiveness and independence, including by limiting the KPK to an investigative function and reducing the number of ad-hoc judges to sit on trial panels.

Anti-corruption efforts should be broadened to be effective. Sustained, rigorous efforts to root out corruption in the police, judiciary and military will help stem the loss of tax revenues from lucrative natural resources, especially the forestry and plantation sectors. Strong leadership from yourself and the Ministry of Forestry is needed to implement anti-corruption reforms, such as chain of custody mechanisms to ensure the legal origin of wood products and the full payment of forestry taxes.

We urge you to:

  • Act immediately to ensure the National Parliament enacts legislation to renew the KPK court, without eroding its authority or independence. If necessary issue an appropriate executive order until legislation can be passed;
  • Ensure corruption investigations sufficiently extend to the judiciary, police and military, including the use of anti-corruption and money laundering legislation to fight corruption in the forestry sector;
  • Stem the loss of government tax revenues from forestry corruption by finalizing chain of custody and revenue tracking mechanisms.

Military Business

Dismantling business activity by the armed forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia or TNI) is widely recognized as a necessary pillar of military reform. But progress has been slow, despite a 2004 legal mandate requiring the government to shut down or take over all of the TNI's business interests before October 2009. We understand that your government has recently decided on a course of action and is finalizing a presidential decree that sets out how it will proceed. We hope that, as the culmination of nearly five years of discussion and debate, this effort will embody a well-considered and comprehensive approach.

TNI involvement in the economy takes several forms: military-owned businesses; collaboration with the private sector (including protection payments); criminal enterprises; and various forms of corruption. Each is pernicious, amounting to an abuse of power as well as a misuse of state assets. Human Rights Watch has shown that money-making ventures by TNI foundations and cooperatives at all levels fuel human rights abuses and create conflicts of interest. Military involvement in illegal businesses, including in the logging and oil palm sector, undermines the rule of law and Indonesia's anti-corruption agenda.

The fact that Indonesia's military derives funds from ties to the private sector, including corporate security payments, presents another ongoing concern. Controversy over such payments has resurfaced in the wake of the series of deadly shootings in July 2009 near the Freeport McMoRan copper and gold mine in Papua. Although a 2004 presidential decree stipulates that responsibility for guarding major corporate sites should transfer from the military to the police, this handover has been incomplete. Company filings in the United States show that Freeport's total spending on "support costs" for the 1,850 Indonesian soldiers and police who operated in and near its mine reached US$92 million through 2008, including US$8 million for 2008 alone. Some of these funds are dispersed as cash "allowances."

We urge you to take firm action to end the involvement of Indonesia's security forces in wide-ranging economic activities as follows:

  • Move expeditiously to issue the long-awaited presidential decree on TNI business reform and accompanying regulations. These measures should be comprehensive and without exceptions, incorporating robust accountability provisions for TNI business dealings (including the unauthorized sell-off of companies and the misuse of state assets) and associated abuses, and be complemented by strict enforcement of the ban on all military business activity;
  • Reject a proposal to transfer TNI businesses to the nominal control of the civilian-led Ministry of Defense, where uniformed military personnel exercise great influence, and instead name an impartial body to take temporary control of such businesses until they are liquidated or sold off. Adopt and enforce similar measures prohibiting business activity in any form by the police;
  • Call for a full, impartial, and transparent investigation of company payments for government security, ensuring that regular reporting on the progress of such investigations takes place and is shared with the Secretariat of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, as well as corporations operating in Indonesia that have joined the initiative.
  • Act to end the practice whereby the presence of government security forces at major corporate sites is underwritten by the companies. Develop an alternative system of financing for public security such that the cost of security is paid from government coffers and the funds directed to this purpose are independently audited, and publicly disclosed in detail.


There is still widespread impunity for members of the security forces responsible for serious violations of human rights. Indonesian military officers and militia leaders have yet to be brought to justice for the atrocities committed by their forces in East Timor, Papua, Aceh, the Malukus, Kalimantan, and elsewhere.

A bellwether test is the case of Munir bin Thalib, a respected human rights advocate murdered on a Garuda Indonesia flight five years ago. In 2004, you yourself said that finding Munir's murderer is "the test of our history." On December 31, 2008, a Jakarta court acquitted Maj. Gen. Muchdi Purwopranjono, a former deputy in the State Intelligence Agency, of Munir's murder in a trial marred by witness coercion and intimidation. On June 15, 2009, the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected an appeal by state prosecutors of Muchdi's acquittal.

Human Rights Watch understands the difficulties in investigating a murder allegedly involving a state intelligence operation. But there are serious concerns about events in the lead-up to the trial and the quality of the evidence. Witnesses were possibly intimidated into changing their statements, a key witness fled the country and the prosecution was weak.

During your previous term as president, you succeeded in ending the conflict in Aceh through the signing of a peace agreement between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement. But there is still no serious effort to establish a truth and reconciliation commission and a tribunal to look at crimes committed after the August 2005 peace agreement, as required by the 2006 Law on Aceh Governance. The tribunal was supposed to be in operation by August 31, 2007. For there to be lasting peace, those involved in extrajudicial killings and other abuses need to be held accountable.

We urge you to:

  • Establish a new independent investigation into the murder of Munir bin Thalib with strong measures to protect witnesses;
  • Set up an inquiry into allegations that witnesses in the trial of Maj. Gen. Muchdi Purwopranjono were intimidated into changing their statements;
  • Encourage Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf to establish the human rights tribunal as well as the Aceh Commission on Truth and Reconciliation. The Aceh commission can be established by provincial decree, without waiting for the establishment of the national commission.

Religious Freedom

Countries around the world, including the United States, are looking to Indonesia to lead in religious tolerance. In an October 2008 Newsweek interview you said that, "Indonesia has always tried to demonstrate and project moderate Islam. Indonesia is not immune to the radicalism, but this is exactly why we must maintain our identity as a moderate, tolerant nation."

A June 2008 decree ordering the Ahmadiyah to cease public religious activities, and continuing violent attacks on Ahmadis and Christians show religious intolerance in Indonesia is on the rise. Following the Ahmadiyah decree, Islamist militants have closed Ahmadiyah mosques in Cianjur, West Java and attacked Ahmadiyah mosques in Greater Jakarta. In Lombok, around 160 Ahmadiyah members have been displaced from their homes since February 2006 because Islamist militants attacked and burned down their houses in Ketapang. The West Nusa Tenggara government has forbidden Ahmadis from returning to their homes, citing security concerns.

Another decree requiring anyone building "a house of worship" to receive prior approval from other religious leaders has been used by Muslim clerics and Islamist militants to block the building of churches. Christian groups say that mobs forcibly closed or burned down more than 480 churches between 1969 and 2007 mainly in Java and Sumatra. On June 14, Islamist militants and government officials tried to demolish two church buildings in a village in Bekasi outside Jakarta because they had not secured approval from Muslim leaders. Members of church groups have been forced to hold meetings in private homes. The religious activities of one group should never be beholden to the approval of others.

Meanwhile, Sharia-based local law in provincial Aceh as well as in regencies in West Sumatra, West Java, Banten, South Sulawesi and West Nusa Tenggara violate the right to religious freedom and the rights of women, such as by forcing all women to wear the veil.

We urge you to:

  • Abolish the decree banning Ahmadiyah religious practices;
  • Protect religious minorities such as Ahmadis and Christians from violent attacks. While focusing efforts on Islamist militants, make clear to all religious communities that infringements on the rights to religious freedom will not be tolerated.
  • Establish a presidential team to review all local laws that might improperly infringe upon the right to freedom of religion under the Indonesian constitution and Indonesia's obligations under international human rights law.

Freedom of Expression

Indonesia has a diverse and lively media, but the right to freedom of expression has been undermined by the use of criminal and civil defamation laws to silence criticism of the government. Offenses in Indonesia's criminal code such as treason or rebellion (makar) and "inciting hatred" (haatzai artikelen) are used to suppress peaceful acts of free expression, including demonstrations and acts of flag-rising in Papua and the Moluccas where there are separatist movements. Under the 2001 Papuan Special Autonomy Law, symbols of Papuan identity such as a flag or song are permitted, but article 6 of Government Regulation 77/2007 prohibits the display of the Morning Star flag in Papua, the South Maluku Republic flag in Ambon, and the Crescent Moon flag in Aceh. Currently there are more than 170 people, including at least 43 in Papua, who are imprisoned throughout Indonesia for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.

We urge you to:

  • Revoke regulations and provisions in the Indonesian Criminal Code that violate the internationally recognized right to freedom of expression;
  • Order the release of those currently in prison for peaceful acts of free expression.

Situation in Papua

In a 2005 speech, you said you would solve Papuan problems "peacefully, fairly and with dignity," and in 2006 you said you would use "persuasion and dialogue" rather than violence in dealing with Papuan activists. Human Rights Watch takes no position on the right to self-determination, but we have long expressed concerns about ongoing abuses by the security forces in Papua and a complete lack of accountability. Restrictions on access by foreign human rights monitors and journalists to Papua exacerbate a climate where security forces can act with impunity by keeping abuses out of the public eye and making investigations more difficult.

Both army troops and police units, particularly mobile paramilitary units (Brigade Mobil or Brimob), engage in largely indiscriminate village "sweeping" operations through the Central Highlands in pursuit of suspected militants, using excessive, often brutal and at times lethal force against civilians. In routine policing, officers sometimes use excessive force. In Merauke, Kopassus soldiers have routinely arrested Papuans without legal authority, beating and mistreating those they take back to their barracks including by forcing them to chew chilies. In Jayapura, prison guards continue to torture inmates inside the Abepura prison. Such abuses contribute to continuing public unrest in Papua.

At the Freeport goldmine in Timika, violence has escalated recently with the killing of three people including one Australian in July 2009. Police arrested at least 20 Papuans in relation to the killings and have declared eight as suspects but they have had no access to lawyers. Media photographs showed the police had roughed up some detainees when making arrests.

We urge you to:

  • End restrictions on access to Papua for independent observers, including diplomats, foreign journalists, and human rights organizations, so that they can visit Papua without need for specific permission or approval;
  • Order an independent and impartial investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Papua, including killings, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention. Such an investigation should hold security forces accountable and bring the perpetrators of such abuses to justice;
  • State publicly that Kopassus and Kostrad troops should not be involved in law enforcement activities, which are the responsibility of the police, and call on the head of Kopassus, Maj. Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, to publicly list the duties of Kopassus in Papua.

Child Domestic Workers

Hundreds of thousands of girls in Indonesia, some as young as 11, are employed as domestic workers in other people's households, performing tasks such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, child care, and sometimes working at their employers' businesses. Many girls work 14 to 18 hour days, seven days a week, with no day off. Many employer's forbid these child domestic workers from leaving the house where they work, isolating them from the outside world and thus placing them at higher risk of abuse. Many employers withhold paying any salary until the child returns home-and many employers fail to pay the children at all or pay less than what they promised. In the worst cases, girls are physically, psychologically, and sexually abused by their employers of their employers' family members, in addition to being exploited for their labor.

Indonesia's labor law-the Manpower Act of 2003-excludes all domestic workers from the basic labor rights afforded to formal workers, such as a minimum wage, overtime pay, an eight-hour workday and 40-hour workweek, weekly day of rest, and vacation. This has a discriminatory impact on women and girls, who constitute the vast majority of domestic workers. This exclusion in the law also serves to perpetuate the devaluing of domestic work and domestic workers.

We urge you to:

  • Pass a Domestic Workers Law in time for the 2010 International Labor Organization Conference on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, that guarantees that domestic workers receive the same rights as other workers, such as a written contract, a minimum wage, overtime, a weekly day of rest, an eight-hour workday, rest periods during the day, national holidays, vacation, paid sick leave, workers compensation, and social security;
  • Instruct your Ministry of Manpower and provincial and district governments to strictly enforce 15 as the minimum age of employment for all sectors, including domestic work. Give priority to underage domestic workers for removal and recovery assistance to help them return to school, and rebuild their lives;
  • Ensure that police have the commitment and resources necessary to comply with their obligations under the Domestic Violence Act, in particular to provide temporary protection to a victim within 24 hours of knowing or receiving a report of violence in the household.

Thank you for your consideration. We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss these and other human rights issues with you and members of your administration.


Brad Adams

Executive Director, Asia division

Human Rights Watch

CC:         Vice President-elect, Boediono;

Vice President, Jusuf Kalla;

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Agung Laksono

Speaker of the Regional Representatives Council, Ginandjar Kartasasmita

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hassan Wirajuda;

Minister of Defense, Prof. Dr. Juwono Sudarsono;

Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Andi Mattalata, SH, MH;

Minister of Manpower and Transmigration, Erman Suparno;

Chief of Army, Lt-Gen Agustadi Sasongko Purnomo;

Ambassador to the UN, H.E. Marty Natalegawa

Ambassador to the US, H.E. Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat.

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