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Indonesia has made great strides in recent years in consolidating a stable, democratic government with a strong civil society and independent media, but serious human rights concerns remain. While senior officials often speak of protecting human rights, they seem unwilling to take the steps necessary to ensure compliance by the security forces with international human rights standards, and to appropriately prosecute those responsible for serious abuses.

The government continues to use laws on treason, “sowing hatred,” blasphemy, and criminal defamation to restrict the right to free expression. Police have arbitrarily arrested and harassed journalists and critics of the government. Peaceful pro-independence activists from Papua and the Moluccas have been prosecuted and sentenced to long prison terms.

Since 2011 Indonesian authorities have failed to adequately address increasing incidents of mob violence directed by militant Islamist groups against religious minorities in Java and Sumatra, including the Ahmadiyah, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Pressure from militants, emboldened by government decrees restricting the constructions of houses of worship, have led local authorities to close hundreds of Christian churches and dozens of Ahmadiyah mosques in recent years.

Human Rights Watch recommends that the EU should focus on the cases of political prisoners and growing violence against religious minorities in its upcoming human rights dialogue with the Indonesian government. 

Political Prisoners

In its voluntary commitments made in its candidature to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011, Indonesia pledged to continue “to strengthen its effort to further promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people.”

But Indonesian officials continue to enforce a number of laws that criminalize the peaceful expression of political, religious, and other views. These laws include offenses in Indonesia's criminal code such as treason (makar) and "inciting hatred" (haatzai artikelen), which have been used repeatedly against peaceful political activists, including those from the Moluccas and Papua.

Indonesia currently imprisons nearly 100 activists from the Moluccas and Papua for "rebellion" for peacefully voicing political views, holding demonstrations, and raising separatist flags. Current political prisoners include Papuan former civil servant Filep Karma (15-year prison term in Abepura prison) and Ruben Saiya (20-year prison term in Nusa Kambangan Island prison). In November 2011 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued its opinion that the Indonesian government is in violation of international law by detaining Filep Karma and called for his immediate release.

In October 2011 police used excessive force when arresting more than 300 Papuans involved in a three-day Papuan Congress in Jayapura, the provincial capital. At least three men died and more than ninety were injured during the police crackdown. Only eight police officers were reprimanded and none criminally charged or dismissed, but five Papuan leaders were charged and convicted of treason and sentenced to three-year prison terms. The “Jayapura Five” are Selpius Bobii, a social media activist; August Sananay Kraar, a civil servant; Dominikus Sorabut, a filmmaker; Edison Waromi, a former political prisoner; and Forkorus Yaboisembut, a Papuan tribal leader.

The Indonesian government has established a unit to accelerate economic development in Papua and appointed a special envoy to open talks with the pro-independence Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, OPM). President Susilo BambangYudhoyono has also invited four Papuan church leaders to discuss human rights issues in Papua. These positive developments aside, there has been little progress in addressing government or OPM abuses in the provinces. Access to Papua remains tightly controlled. Foreign journalists and human rights researchers cannot visit independently without close monitoring of their activities. 

The EU should urge the Indonesian government to:

  • Release immediately and unconditionally all political prisoners held for the peaceful expression of their political views.  A list of some of these prisoners is included at the end of this statement. Some prisoners, such as Filep Karma (63) and Ferdinand Waas (64), have severe medical health problems and receive insufficient medical care in prison. The EU should also call for Indonesian authorities to provide adequate health care for all political prisoners. 
  • Amend or repeal laws that criminalize peaceful political expression, including articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code on treason.
  • Revoke article 6 of Government Regulation No. 77/2007, which prohibits the display of separatist logos or flags, or amend it to bring it into compliance with international human rights standards and the Indonesian constitution.
  • Accept pending requests and facilitate without delay a visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression.


Violence against Religious Minorities

Incidents of violence against religious minorities became more deadly and frequent since 2011, as Islamist militants mobilized mobs to attack religious minorities and their houses of worship. Short prison terms for a handful of offenders had no impact on the widespread impunity for those responsible for the worst offenses. The government did not revoke several decrees that discriminate against minority religions, fostering public intolerance.

Islamist groups attacked members of the Ahmadiyah religious community and their mosques in 14 locations, including West Java, Banten, and South Sulawesi. Even in the deadliest attack against the Ahmadiyah, in February 2011, where three Ahmadiyah men were killed, Islamist militants were only sentenced to short prison terms of between three and six months for disturbing public order, incitement, and deadly assault. They were not convicted of murder or manslaughter. Police did not conduct thorough investigations, and prosecutors did not call key witnesses, including a man who videotaped the attack. Meanwhile, one of the Ahmadiyah victims was convicted of incitement for provoking the attack and sentenced to six months in prison.

The government has failed to overturn several decrees that discriminate against certain religions and foster intolerance. Minority congregations reported that local government officials arbitrarily refused to issue them permits required under a 2006 decree on building houses of worship. Those who attempt to worship without a permit face harassment and violence.

In January 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that a Presbyterian church known locally as GKI Yasmin should be reopened, overturning a Bogor administration ruling by the city government to revoke the church’s building permit. Mayor Diani Budiarto refused to comply, and government ministers have offered the church “relocation.” Since October Islamist organizations have harassed churchgoers who regularly hold Sunday services on a sidewalk outside the sealed church, and prevented the congregation from holding its Christmas service there. In September 2011 the Supreme Court also ordered Bekasi regent Sa`duddin to open the seal and to issue the permit to HKBP Filadelfia church. Sa’duddin refused to obey the verdict.

In 2008 the government passed a national decree that prohibits public propagation of the Ahmadiyah faith, an Islamic sect. Since then, at least 16 provinces and regencies of Indonesia have followed suit, issuing stricter regulations and, in West Java as well as West Sumatra, also banning “activities” of the Ahmadiyah.

The 1965 blasphemy law has been used to prosecute and imprison members of religious minorities and traditional religions. It has emboldened militants to have a legal basis on which to violently attack religious minorities and atheists. In February 2011 Islamist militants also attacked three churches in Temanggung, Central Java, after the district court convicted a controversial preacher, Antonius Bawareng, of blasphemy. The court sentenced him to the maximum penalty for blasphemy, five years in prison, but Islamists called for him to be executed. The Semarang district court later convicted eight of the Islamist militants involved in the attack, sentencing them to between five months and one year in prison.

The EU should urge the Indonesian government to:

  • Revoke the national anti-Ahmadiyah 2008 decree, which bars public propagation of the Ahmadiyah faith and void provincial decrees that ban activities by the Ahmadiyah religious community, and act to block similar laws in the future.
  • Revoke the 1969 and 2006 decrees on houses of worship, which in practice are used to discriminate against religious minorities.
  • Take all necessary measures to stop violence and discrimination against religious minorities.
  • Hold to account the perpetrators of threats and violence against the Ahmadiyah, Christian, Shia, and other religious minorities.
  • Review the investigatory role of the Coordinating Board for Monitoring Mystical Beliefs in Society (Badan Koordinasi Pengawas Aliran Kepercayaan Masyarakat, Bakorpakem) which provides an avenue for religious leaders to prosecute religious minority figures.
  • Accept the pending request and facilitate without delay the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.



Profiles of Some Political Prisoners in Indonesia


  1. Forkorus Yaboisembut, 58, chairman of Papua Customary Council, arrested on December 19, 2011 at the end of the Papuan People’s Congress in Jayapura, sentenced to three years in prison for treason, held at Abepura prison. Jayapura, Papua.
  2. Edison Waromi, 48, president of the West Papua National Authority, arrested on December 19, 2011 at the end of the Papuan People’s Congress in Jayapura, sentenced to three years in prison for treason at Abepura prison. He was previously incarcerated from 1991-1998 at the Surabaya prison, also for treason.
  3. August Sananay Kraar, 45, a civil servant at the Papua Provincial Development Planning Office, arrested on December 19, 2011 at the end of the Papuan People’s Congress in Jayapura, sentenced to three years in prison for treason, at the Abepura prison.
  4. Dominikus Sorabut, 31, a filmmaker in Wamena, arrested on December 19, 2011 at the end of the Papuan People’s Congress in Jayapura, sentenced to three years in prison for treason, at Abepura prison.
  5. Selpius Bobii, 31, social media activist, arrested in October 20, 2011 in Jayapura. He was the organizer of the Papuan People’s Congress. The Jayapura district court sentenced him to three years in prison at Abepura prison.
  6. Ferdinand Pakage, parking attendant, arrested on March 15, 2006, sentenced to 15 years in prison for allegedly stabbing a policeman during riots that day. However the circumstances in his case—he was allegedly tortured to confess during the police investigation and there were serious irregularities in his trial—raise concerns about the fairness of his conviction. On September 22, 2008, Abepura prison guards beat him severely, blinding his right eye. He is in the Abepura prison.
  7. Filep Karma, 53, civil servant, arrested on December 4, 2004 when making a speech about Papua’s independence in Jayapura. He was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for treason, incarcerated at Abepura prison, Jayapura.
  8. Linus Hiluka, 41, farmer and tribal chief in Baliem Valley, arrested on April 4, 2003 for his association to the Baliem Valley Panel deemed to be a separatist organization, sentenced to 20 years in prison, incarcerated at the Nabire prison, Papua.

The Moluccas Islands

  1. Daniel Malawau, 66, retired civil servant in Ambon, arrested on June 21, 2007, involvement in raising a RMS flag, sentenced to 15 years’ prison term for treason. He is now in Ambon prison.
  2. Johan Teterisa, 51, a school teacher, led 27 dancers in a protest against Indonesia rule at a public event involving President Yudhoyono on June 29, 2007. The Ambon district court found him guilty of treason, and sentenced him to life imprisonment. An appeal reduced his sentence to 15 years. He is now in Kediri prison, East Java.
  3. Ruben Saiya, 29, farmer in Aboru village, Haruku Island, arrested on June 29, 2007, one of the 28 dancers who unfurled RMS flags in front of President Yudhoyono. The Ambon district court convicted him of treason, and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. He is now in Kembang Kuning prison, Nusa Kambangan Island. His two brothers, Arens and Yohanis, also joined the protest dance and were sentenced to 8 and 17 years respectively. They are imprisoned in Semarang (Central Java) and Kembang Kuning prisons respectively.
  4. Ferdinand Waas, 64, retired army officer, was also convicted of treason related to the June 29, 2007, protest. The Ambon district court sentenced to 10 years in prison and he is held in Ambon prison.
  5. Petrus Rahayaan, 38, a school administrator at State Senior High School II in Ambon, arrested on July 1, 2007, involved in RMS flag-raising, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for treason, incarcerated at Kedung Pane prison, Semarang, Central Java.
  6. Raymond Tuapattinaya, 38, civil construction engineer, was arrested by police on July 2, 2007, for involvement in an RMS flag-raising ceremony in the Siwang area, outside of Ambon, in Kediri prison, and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for treason, held  in Kediri prison, East Java.
  7. Semuel Lesnussa, 50, pedicab driver in Ambon, arrested on July 25, 2007, involved in raising an RMS flag, sentenced to eight years in prison for treason in Permisan prison, Nusa Kambangan Island.
  8. Venty Sapulete, 40, farmer, arrested on August 16, 2007, involved in raising an RMS flag, sentenced to 11 year prison term for treason, incarcerated at Kediri prison, East Java.
  9. Yohanis Sipolo, 49, small trader in Ambon, arrested on October 12, 2007, involved in a raising an RMS flag, sentenced to seven-year prison term for treason. He is now in Ambon prison.




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