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February 22, 2016

Complaint submitted to:

UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Michel Forst

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Juan Méndez

Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Dainius Pūras

Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health  

Rita Izsák-Ndiay

Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues

Human Rights Watch (the complainant) submit that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Indonesia’s Aceh province live in a spiraling climate of fear. In their daily lives, LGBT people face ever-present harassment, arbitrary arrests and detention by Sharia (Islamic law) and municipal police, and threats of torture under laws that are interpreted to criminalize same-sex acts. LGBT human rights defenders face increasing threats to their work promoting human rights and to their personal security. In January 2016, Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 LGBT people from Aceh and documented human rights abuses related to the enforcement of local Sharia. All names presented in this document are pseudonyms; the interviews were conducted in a safe location outside of Aceh.

The Complainants

Human Rights Watch is an independent international human rights organization working to defend human rights of people worldwide. Our researchers investigate human rights abuses in some 90 countries around the world, including Indonesia.

The Alleged Victims

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Aceh province, Indonesia.

State Agents Responsible

Governor of Aceh province; President of the Republic of Indonesia; Ministry for Home Affairs; Ministry for Law and Human Rights.


Indonesia’s Aceh province has long enjoyed relative autonomy from the central government as a Special Administrative Region, including a semi-independent legal system, and Acehnese authorities have previously introduced certain Sharia provisions, including dress codes and mandatory prayers. Aceh gained added autonomy as part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended a 30-year insurgency in the province. While the Acehnese have the power to enact their own laws, all laws governing citizens and residents of Indonesia must be consistent with the Indonesian constitution.

On September 14, 2009, a new criminal bylaw (Aceh Law No. 11/2006) passed by the provincial parliament of Aceh, punishes homosexual conduct with 100 lashes in public.[1] Then-Governor Irwandi Yusuf refused to sign this version of the Aceh criminal code, which included stoning for adultery. This led the Aceh legislature to rewrite the criminal code over the course of five years. On September 27, 2014, the Aceh provincial parliament approved the Principles of the Islamic Bylaw and the Islamic criminal code (Qanun Jinayah), which create new discriminatory offenses that do not exist in the Indonesian national criminal code. The bylaws criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts as well as all zina (sexual relations outside of marriage). The criminal code permits as punishment up to 100 lashes and up to 100 months in prison for consensual same-sex sex acts, while zina violations carry a penalty of 100 lashes.[2]

These bylaws apply not only to Aceh’s predominantly Muslim population, but to about 90,000 non-Muslim residents, most of them Christians and Buddhists, as well as domestic and foreign visitors to the province. They came into effect in September 2015, one year after the parliamentary approval, and had an immediate impact on the lives of LGBT people in the province.

The Sharia criminal laws are enforced primarily by special municipal Sharia police known as the Wilayatul Hisbah (WH), and by neighbors and community members, who are empowered by provisions of the law to act against suspected violators.[3] The laws are inconsistent with international human rights law. They are often implemented in an abusive fashion—some suspects have had their homes forcibly broken into by neighbors, while others have been arrested arbitrarily and harassed by WH officers.

The law violates fundamental principles of international human rights, including the rights to life and freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, protected in articles 6 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Conventional against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture). The UN Committee Against Torture, which monitors the implementation of the Convention against Torture, has unconditionally recognized stoning and flogging as torture. Indonesia ratified the Convention against Torture in 1998 and acceded to the ICCPR in 2006. Aceh’s Islamic Criminal Code directly contravenes Indonesia's obligations under these conventions.

In 2010, the head of the WH told the Indonesian media that, in his opinion, homosexuality is forbidden in Aceh whether or not a local law prohibiting it exists.[4] A 2014 United Nations report said that during the previous five years, “the situation for LGBT residents of Aceh and other marginalized communities has deteriorated.”[5] In 2012, while the bylaws were debated in the provincial legislature, Banda Aceh Deputy Mayor Illiza Sa’aduddin was a leading public proponent of harsher punishments for homosexuality, telling media: “If we ignore it, it will be like an iceberg….Even if one case of homosexuality [is] found, it’s already a problem. ... We are really concerned about the behavior and activities of the gay community, because their behavior is deviating from the Islamic Shariah.”[6] In 2013, after Illiza had been elected mayor of Banda Aceh (she currently holds the office), she told reporters that a government HIV survey had determined that same-sex sexual behavior was increasing in the province, and that “homosexuals are encroaching on our city.”[7] A 2012 size estimation survey of Key Affected Populations had determined there were 17,809 men who have sex with men (MSM) and 794 transgender women in Aceh.[8]

Harassment, Arbitrary Arrests and Detention Under Aceh Law

Nearly all of the 20 LGBT people from Aceh that Human Rights Watch interviewed in January 2016 said they had been harassed, threatened, or arrested by the WH in the past year on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. All 20 interviewees described the fear they felt when they saw WH officers on the street. As one put it, “All I can think about when I see them is whipping—that I’ll be whipped if they catch me and charge me with homosexual acts.”[9]

One transgender woman reported a WH officer had sexually harassed her, and two other transgender women reported instances of perceived entrapment by WH officers. In the latter instances, WH officers known to the interviewees because of previous encounters with them, entered hair salons where the interviewees were working as stylists. “In January 2015, a WH officer came to my salon [in Banda Aceh] and said he wanted a massage,” Cahya L. told Human Rights Watch. “I recognized his face and thought he was WH looking to cause problems for me, but I needed the money because I hadn’t had any clients that day, so I told him to sit down.” Within minutes, the customer pulled out a condom and opened it, dropped it and the wrapper on the floor, then promptly exited the salon. “I was confused, and looked around to ask one of my colleagues why he left so quickly,” she said. “But then almost immediately a group of WH officers entered the salon, saw the condom on the floor, and took me to the office where they said, ‘You should be happy you got caught before the Qanun (Islamic Criminal Code) came into force.’”[10]

A transgender woman in Banda Aceh who was arrested by the WH three times in 2014 said the second time they apprehended her and took her to their office, “Ten of them came into the room, held me down, and cut my hair, telling me I needed to look more like a man.” The next time she was arrested, the WH interrogation included them showing her a series of photos of other LGBT people.[11] In another case, three transgender women from Bireuen described a night in December 2015 when a dozen WH officers came to the hair salon where they worked and instructed them to change into male clothing.

The WH is not the only institution responsible for implementing Sharia in Aceh. In addition to the WH and police, communities are encouraged to implement the prohibition against “seclusion,” for example, and to resolve allegations of seclusion in adat (customary law) dispute resolution mechanisms.[12] The Sharia legal system overlaps closely with Aceh’s adat legal system. Adat is a largely uncodified body of rules that can vary from community to community and which community leaders enforce in traditional dispute resolution procedures. Adat customs and standards in Aceh are heavily influenced by Islam and are understood to correspond closely with Sharia principles.[13] The adat system plays a significant role in the resolution of disputes affecting the daily lives of many Acehnese people.[14]

Community enforcement standards encourage widespread harassment of LGBT people in Aceh, creating a climate of pervasive fear. In one case Human Rights Watch documented, community enforcement led to the expulsion of a transgender man from his home city under the threat of violence from community members invoking Islamic law. Edi L., a 20-year-old transgender man from Bireuen, told Human Rights Watch that one morning in early July 2015, five of his neighbors came to his family’s home with a letter saying the family must remove their child within a week or they would return, abduct him, and remove him themselves. The letter was signed by the head of the village, he said, so his parents took it seriously and packed their bags to leave that evening. “This was the third letter that came, but because I had been harassed in public for so long due to my appearance, my family and I were used to it,” he said, explaining that the previous two letters had been delivered in March and May 2015. A year before the neighbors started delivering the letters, an assailant had hit him on the head with a stick while he was sitting in a public park, and told him to leave the city. After that, he mostly stayed at home until his mother moved him out of Aceh to prevent an attack from his neighbors.[15]

A transgender community leader called herself a “forced nomad,” saying she has five different places where she sleeps at night—“I move randomly every night, I have to do this to stay safe.”[16]

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has deemed that deprivation of liberty is arbitrary, “When the deprivation of liberty constitutes a violation of international law for reasons of discrimination based on…sexual orientation; or disability or other status, and which aims towards or can result in ignoring the equality of human rights.”[17] The Working Group has noted that police often round up LGBT people on the basis of their appearance alone,[18] and urged governments to pay specific attention to avoid arbitrary arrests and detention of people based on their sexual orientation under laws that vaguely prohibit public indecency.[19]

Discriminatory Barriers to Accessing Essential Health Services

No reliable, recent data are available about HIV in Aceh. The most recent national HIV data collected through an Integrated Bio-Behavioral Survey for Indonesia covering 11 provinces (but not Aceh) shows high HIV rates among transgender women (22 percent) and men who have sex with men, or MSM (8 percent). Only 54 percent of MSM reported condom use during their most recent sexual encounter. The most common source of HIV information among MSM and transgender women was peers.[20] While no specific data exists for the situation in Aceh, it is likely that the climate of fear and harassment of LGBT people puts them at greater risk of contracting HIV. Acehnese LGBT people told Human Rights Watch they struggled to access basic services, including HIV testing and counselling.

The government of Indonesia has recognized the negative impact of Aceh’s legislation on LGBT on HIV prevention and control efforts. In its 2012 United Nations Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) report, the government of Indonesia acknowledged that, “[b]ylaws in Aceh province prohibit homosexuality” and “[t]hese policies make it difficult to access groups who are fearful of persecution. There is a need to harmonize local legislation with the legislation / national policy.” The report called on the Ministry of the Interior and the Regional AIDS Commission to undertake the repeal process.[21]

A 2015 report by the Global Forum on MSM and HIV that referenced cases of violence against LGBT people in Indonesia argued that, “efforts to prevent, mitigate, and document anti-LGBT violence are indispensable to all HIV-related work” and called for HIV programs to specifically include anti-violence budgets.[22]

Adine B., a 26-year-old transgender woman (waria) in Bireuen said she refuses to go to a clinic or hospital for HIV services without a MSM or transgender NGO representative accompanying her. “I get condoms from the MSM HIV NGOs when they have them, otherwise I am not comfortable purchasing them,” she said. She told Human Rights Watch that since the Qanun Jinayah came into force in October 2015, she does not go out of her home for more than an hour at a time, or travel far from the safety of her family’s compound. “Maybe I should stop having sex now because it could mean I get in trouble, but I have natural needs and I’m not sure how long I can remain like this,” she said,[23] echoing concerns expressed by three other interviewees. Adine B. told Human Rights Watch that she has only been tested for HIV once in her life, despite being sexually active.

Martaka H., a 20-year-old gay man in Banda Aceh, told Human Rights Watch he does not know where any HIV clinics are, and since he got harassed last summer while trying to purchase condoms at a pharmacy, he has stopped trying to buy them. “The WH are everywhere since Qanun Jinayah,” he said. “They’ve gone crazy, and they’ve convinced everyone else to act like police as well—so even at a pharmacy we are being watched.”[24]

Civil society groups who conduct HIV outreach for MSM and transgender people told Human Rights Watch that the situation has grown increasingly dire. “Outreach to MSM was difficult before because society is conservative, but now it is near impossible because no one trusts us,” explained Danu N., who works for an NGO in Banda Aceh. “MSM now think we will report them for being gay under the Qanun Jinayah so when we approach them during condom or counselling outreach at the usual sites, they walk away, saying they can’t interact with us.”[25]

Another NGO leader said that MSM she has approached during outreach in Banda Aceh have told her directly that they suspect HIV NGOs are either providing the government with the names of gay men or unknowingly leading government officials, including the WH, to gathering places. “All of our contacts at cruising sites or gathering places talk about Illiza, the mayor of Banda Aceh, and say that she’s trying to spy on them so we should not approach them anymore,” the NGO outreach worker said.[26]

Interviewees told Human Rights Watch that even staff at HIV clinics harass LGBT and transgender people. In one case in early 2015, a transgender woman brought some housewives she had met at an HIV workshop to a clinic to be tested. “The nurse asked them—why do you hang out with a bencong [slur for transgender women]?” A staff member at one HIV NGO told Human Rights Watch that during the summer of 2015, staff members of a mobile HIV testing clinic that came to the office of an LGBT NGO in Banda Aceh harassed transgender women there, demanding to see their breasts and chastising them for “being like this [being transgender].” She said the NGO had invited the mobile clinic to visit the office as a matter of last resort after a case in 2014 in which a public clinic in Banda Aceh leaked the HIV-positive status of a gay man, leading to MSM refusing to visit that clinic again. [27] 

All of the HIV outreach workers Human Rights Watch interviewed specifically referenced mayor Illiza’s comments linking the 2012 HIV survey results to the “encroachment of homosexuals.”

As referenced earlier in the incident of entrapment in the hair salon, WH officers have used condoms as evidence of criminal activity under Qanun Jinayah. Two transgender women engaged in sex work told Human Rights Watch that they had stopped carrying condoms following WH harassment and hearing stories from peers about the risks of being discovered with condoms.

Police interference with the ability to access means of HIV prevention, whether in the form of information from peers or condoms, interferes with the rights to life and health. A 2015 joint UN Population Fund (UNFPA), World Health Organization (WHO) and Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) statement called practices such as police using condoms as evidence put HIV prevention programs at risk and that, “HIV prevention efforts and governments should take actions to end these human rights violations.”[28]

The right to access condoms and related HIV prevention services is also an essential part of the human right to the highest attainable standard of health. The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) obligates state parties to take steps “necessary for... the prevention, treatment and control of epidemic ... diseases,” including HIV.[29]  UN bodies responsible for monitoring implementation of the ICESCR have interpreted this provision to include access to condoms and complete HIV information.[30]

The International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights, non-binding but authoritative interpretations of human rights law applicable to HIV, address the fact that marginalized populations, including sex workers, have experienced discrimination and been denied equal access to HIV prevention services:

HIV prevalence has grown among groups most marginalized, such as sex workers, drug users, and men having sex with men. Coverage of interventions to educate people about HIV; to provide them with HIV prevention commodities, services, and treatment; to protect them from discrimination and sexual violence; and to empower them to participate in the response and live successfully in a world with HIV is unacceptably low in many parts of the world.[31]

Non-binding declarations adopted by the UN General Assembly, such as the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of Persons under Detention have also become universal norms by which police behavior is evaluated. Under the terms of these UN declarations on policing, law enforcement officials should treat all persons with compassion and respect for their dignity, and should not inflict, instigate, or tolerate any act of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.[32] The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health has noted in other areas where Sharia enshrines discrimination against LGBT people, access to health services is harmfully thwarted.[33] In a 2016 report, the Special Rapporteur on Torture noted that:

The criminalization of same-sex relationships and pervasive discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons lead to the denial of health care, information and related services, including the denial of HIV care, in clear violation of international human rights standards such as the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.[34]

Shrinking Space for LGBT Human Rights Defenders

LGBT human rights defenders in Aceh have lived under the siege of intense social prejudice, discrimination, and violence for years. In 2010, a year after Aceh’s Qanun Jinayah was voted through by the provincial parliament, Human Rights Watch documented a case in which the WH detained two transgender women, ostensibly for failing to wear attire in keeping with Islam. The arrest presented a particularly perplexing charge: One was wearing women’s clothing that conformed to the law and the other was wearing men’s clothing that conformed to the law; both were arrested for violating the law.[35]

As the Qanun Jinayah came into full effect in September 2015, the climate of fear for LGBT people was exacerbated by outright hostility. One LGBT activist from Banda Aceh recounted: “On September 27 I was standing outside a coffee shop with two other [LGBT] friends and the FPI [Islamic Defenders Front][36] drove by in a truck shouting to celebrate the Sharia. They looked right at us, screaming—it was horrifying and we knew things would be different from then on.”[37] Later that night, according to three activists, an FPI group abducted a transgender woman from her home. Activists searched for her for two days, and on the third day discovered her at a WH office. “She was completely traumatized, and has refused to come out of her home since then,” one of the activists who worked on the case explained.[38]

Within a day of the Qanun Jinayah coming into force, the WH arrested two young women, ages 18 and 19, for embracing in public, accused them of lesbianism, and detained them for three nights at a WH facility in Banda Aceh.[39] LGBT rights activists first learned of the arrest when they saw a television news report about the incident and thought they could recognize their friends. For four days, they attempted to contact the WH, including through channels at legal aid NGOs, but the WH refused to release any information about the women. When they were released during the fourth day, they signed papers declaring their intent to desist from lesbianism and follow Islamic law, and were transported to a government-run rehabilitation facility for seven days of religious counselling. LGBT rights activists explained to Human Rights Watch that the only safe way they felt they could investigate the case was through proxies, such as other NGOs and lawyers. Efforts to obtain information carried real risks. As one activist explained, “How can we, as lesbian and transgender activists, demand to know from the WH why they arrested people simply for being lesbians? Asking the question will mean exposing ourselves.”[40]

While detained at the WH facility, the two women were not allowed to contact NGOs. As part of the interrogation process, each woman was shown a series of five to seven photos and asked if she knew the individuals and whether they were LGBT people. Some of the photographs displayed to them had been taken by WH officers during prior sweeps and arrests. Others appeared to have been taken directly from social media, including Facebook. One of the photos was of a close friend of theirs, and on seeing it they inadvertently reacted with body language that made WH officers suspicious. Said the friend who appeared in the photo: “Since I know the WH have my photo on file now, I only leave my home in emergencies—it’s not safe to go outside unless I absolutely have to, for example to help someone else who has been assaulted or harassed.”[41]

LGBT rights activists told Human Rights Watch they have moved all of their files out of the province to avoid detection, and that they have increasingly worked from remote locations since the Qanun Jinayah came into effect. One transgender activist described his extensive efforts to avoid men on motorcycles who have followed him from home to the office on at least five occasions since October 2015. “The last time I saw the man on the motorbike at the end of my road, I turned and drove 60 kilometers to another city, then drove back on smaller roads to lose him,” he said. “It was horrifying, of course, and I realized the cost of the petrol to drive that far every day was too high, so now I just don’t leave my house.” He did not go to the NGO’s office at all in December or January. “I’m afraid such people might kill me—it would be easy for them to do that.”[42] One NGO leader who reported she had been picked up by the WH twice in 2015 while walking down the street said she was “doubly afraid.” After the most recent time the WH harassed her, she was able to deceive them and have them drop her off at a coffee shop, claiming she lived upstairs. “But they stayed and watched me for hours—so now I’m not only afraid of being picked up, but I’m afraid I am running out of ways to get rid of them.”[43]

Other activists described how the bylaws, and in particular the provisions encouraging community enforcement, caused them to distrust people who approached them, including potential beneficiaries. “We have to be safe now even with people who say they support LGBT people or want to learn about us. We can’t trust them, because we have seen them turn on us,” explained an NGO leader from Banda Aceh who believed the Acehnese government’s HIV program staff were being rewarded for giving information to the WH about LGBT people’s whereabouts. “Even LGBT people who have genuine questions—unless we can see that they are visibly transgender already—we can’t interact with them, we have to ignore them.”[44]

An NGO leader explained that agencies were reducing their support for LGBT-related activities in order to protect themselves. “Up until 2015, [an office of the local government] was giving our organization a small amount of money for HIV outreach work. Some people on social media discovered this and it lit up like a fire that the [government office] was supporting LGBT people and they had to stop.” [45] One international NGO that supports LGBT rights activists in Aceh noted in early 2015 that partner organizations “argued that including LGBT activists in public advocacy made them vulnerable to counterattack and smear campaigns.” The organization decided on security grounds to only hold private events for LGBT people, noting that this was taking place while “fundamentalist leaders sanction increasingly intolerant laws and decrees.”[46] Other donor agencies told Human Rights Watch that while it had always been complicated supporting LGBT organizations in Aceh, it had gotten increasingly difficult since the Qanun Jinayah came into place. Explained one international NGO officer: “Right as the situation gets even worse for them, it gets even more difficult for us to do basic things like transfer funds or run training sessions.”[47]

Relevant Legal Standards

Indonesia’s constitution recognizes the right to freedom of religion in article 29, noting that “the State guarantees all persons the freedom of worship, each according to his or her own religious belief.”[48] Article 28I states that the rights to freedom of thought and conscience and freedom of religion are rights “that cannot be limited under any circumstances.”[49] The constitution affirms the rights to legal certainty and “equal treatment before the law,” and “to be free from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.”[50] It provides that every person has the right to be free “from discriminatory treatment based upon any grounds whatsoever” and the right to protection from discrimination.[51] Indonesia’s law 39/1999 on Human Rights reaffirms these provisions[52] and also guarantees the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.[53]

The Convention against Torture outlaws corporal punishment, including caning. The Human Rights Committee has noted that the prohibition against torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment “relates not only to acts that cause physical pain but also to acts that cause mental suffering to the victim.”[54] The Human Rights Committee has noted that the prohibition extends to “corporal punishment, including excessive chastisement ordered as punishment for a crime or as an educative or disciplinary measure.”[55] The Special Rapporteur on Torture has specifically addressed the impermissibility of corporal punishment even when laws authorizing it are derived from religion, noting that "those States applying religious law are bound to do so in such a way as to avoid the application of … corporal punishment in practice.”[56] In 2008, the Committee against Torture specifically discussed the introduction of corporal punishment in Aceh, finding that “the execution of punishment in public and the use of physically abusive methods (such as flogging or caning) … contravene the Convention.”[57] The Committee against Torture concluded that Indonesia should review laws in Aceh “that authorize the use of corporal punishment as criminal sanctions, with a view to abolishing them immediately, as such punishments constitute a breach of the obligations imposed by the Convention.”[58]

In its 2008 review of Indonesia, The Committee against Torture expressed concern that “local regulations, such as the Aceh Criminal Code, adopted in 2005, introduced corporal punishment for certain new offences. … [and] that the enforcement of such provisions is under the authority of a ‘morality police’, the Wilayatul Hisbah, which exercises an undefined jurisdiction and whose supervision by public State institutions is unclear.” The Committee against Torture also alerted that “necessary legal fundamental safeguards do not exist for persons detained by such officials, including the absence of a right to legal counsel, the apparent presumption of guilt, the execution of punishment in public and the use of physically abusive methods (such as flogging or caning) that contravene the Convention [against Torture] and national law.”[59]

The Committee against Torture has on numerous occasions instructed governments to take steps to prevent violence, threats, and intimidation against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.[60] In 2016, the Special Rapporteur on Torture noted that: “A clear link exists between the criminalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, police abuse, community and family violence and stigmatization.”[61]

Urgent Intervention Needed

Islamic law is deeply engrained in Aceh’s political history. However, the provisions criminalizing same-sex acts, enforcing a strict dress code, and mandating caning as punishment are serious violations of international human rights. The Free Aceh Movement, which concluded the 2005 peace agreement in Helsinki with the Indonesian government, agreed to adhere to the ICCPR in drafting the region’s laws—including ICCPR article 50, that “The provisions of the Covenant shall extend to all parts of federal States without any limitations or exceptions.”[62]

Human Rights Watch urges the Special Rapporteurs to engage the Indonesian government to put an end to the human rights abuses against LGBT people in Aceh by:

  • Investigating allegations of arbitrary arrest and detention and appropriately holding perpetrators, including WH officers, to account.
  • Working to repeal discriminatory local bylaws that mandate torture and ill-treatment.
  • Ensure that health programs, including HIV services, are conducted without discrimination or harassment and are accessible to LGBT populations.
  • Publicly condemn vitriolic statements against LGBT people made by public officials, and order officials to put a halt to WH harassment of NGO staff.

[1] Human Rights Watch, “Indonesia: New Aceh Law Imposes Torture,” October 11, 2009,

[2] Human Rights Watch, “Indonesia: Aceh’s New Islamic Laws Violate Rights,” October 2, 2014,

[3] The size, structure, operating procedures, and budget of the WH are non-transparent, and items of intense political debate. See: Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, “Political Power Struggles in Aceh,” February 9, 2015,

[4] Human Rights Watch, Policing Morality—Abuses in the Application of Sharia in Aceh, Indonesia, November 2010,

[6] Jakarta Globe, “Banda Aceh Deputy Mayor Pushes for Bylaw Criminalizing Same-Sex Relationships,”

[7] Tribune News, Kaum Gay Mulai Merambah Banda Aceh, May 5, 2013,

[8] Republic of Indonesia Ministry of Health, “Size Estimation of Key Affected Populations 2012,”

[9] Human Rights Watch interview with Anom M., location withheld, January 13, 2016.

[10] Human Rights Watch interview with Cahya L., location withheld, January 14, 2016.

[11] Human Rights Watch interview with Putri K., location withheld, January 14, 2016.

[12] In Aceh today, it is a crime for two mature people of different sexes who are not married or related by blood to be together in an isolated place. Such unlawful proximity is banned by Aceh’s khalwat (mesum) law (literally “seclusion (indecency)” law. Violations are punishable by caning and a fine of up to 10 million Rupiah (US$1,116).

[13] Qanun No. 7/2000 defines adat as “rules or actions based on Islamic Sharia that have long been generally followed, respected and honored, and that form the foundation of life.”

[14] UNDP, “Access to Justice in Aceh,” p. 49 (“adat continues to be the justice system upon which Acehnese predominately rely for resolution of their grievances.”).

[15]Human Rights Watch interview with Edi L., location withheld, January 12, 2016.

[16] Human Rights Watch interview with Filza B., location withheld, January 11, 2016.

[17] UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Individual Complaints,; see also UN Economic and Social Council,
“Civil and Political Rights Including the Question of Torture and Detention,” E/CN.4/2003/8

[18] Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, A/HRC/10/21/Add.3, 16 February 2009: Colombia

[19] Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, A/HRC/13/30/Add.3, 8 February 2011, Senegal;

[20] The sample size for the FSW, Waria, MSM, and, IDU in each selected location was 250;  Government of Indonesia, Ministry of Health, Integrated Bio-Behavioral Survey 2011,

[21] Indonesian National AIDS Commission, Republic of Indonesia Country Report on the Follow Up To the Declaration of Commitment On HIV/AIDS (UNGASS), 2012, (accessed February 18, 2016).

[22] The Global Forum on MSM & HIV, “Services Under Siege,” 2015, (accessed February 18, 2016).

[23] Human Rights Watch interview with Adine B., location withheld, January 11, 2016.

[24] Human Rights Watch interview with Martaka H., location withheld, January 11, 2016.

[25] Human Rights Watch interview with Danu N., location withheld, January 12, 2016.

[26] Human Rights Watch interview with Celia L., location withheld, January 13, 2016.

[27] Human Rights Watch interview with Dewi F., location withheld, January 14, 2016.

[28] UNFPA, WHO and UNAIDS, “Position statement on condoms and the prevention of HIV, other sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy,” July 17, 2015, (accessed February 18, 2016).

[29] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), UN GAOR (no. 16) at 49, UN Doc. A/6316 (1966), 99 UNTS 3, entered into force January 3, 1976, signed by the US on October 5, 1977.

[30] Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 14, The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health, UN Doc. E/C.12/2000/4, adopted August 11, 2000, paras. 15, 16.

[31] Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), “International Guidelines on HIV and Human Rights,” 2006, p. 5.

[32] Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, G.A. Res. 34/169, annex, 34 U.N. GAOR Supp. (no. 46) at 186, U.N. Doc. A/34/46 (1979), art. 2; Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons Under any Form of Detention and Imprisonment, G.A. res. 43/173, annex, 43 U.N. GAOR Supp. (no. 49) at 298, U.N. Doc. A/43/49 (1988), prin. 1; United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners (Standard Minimum Rules) adopted by the First United nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held at Geneva in 1955, and approved by the Economic and Social Council by its resolution 663 (XXIV) of July 31, 1957, and 2076 (LXII) of May 13, 1977, para. 26.

[33] Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, A/HRC/29/33/Add.1, 1 May 2015: Malaysia.

[34] Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, “the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in international law to the unique experiences of women, girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons,” January 5, 2016, A/HRC/31/57.

[35] Human Rights Watch, Policing Morality—Abuses in the Application of Sharia in Aceh, Indonesia, November 2010,

[36] The Islamic Defenders Front, known by its Indonesian acronym “FPI” is a militant Sunni Islamist group that has historically threatened or attacked religious minority communities with impunity, and has in recent months threatened and harassed LGBT people in and shut down LGBT activist events. See: Indonesia: Human Rights Watch, “Indonesia: Flurry of Anti-Gay Statements by Officials,” February 12, 2016,

[37] Human Rights Watch interview with Danu N., location withheld, January 12, 2016.

[38] Human Rights Watch interview with Danu N., location withheld, January 12, 2016.

[39] Human Rights Watch, “Indonesia: ‘Suspected Lesbians’ Detained,” October 2, 2015,

[40] Human Rights Watch interview with Celia L., location withheld, January 13, 2016.

[41] Human Rights Watch interview with Danu N, location withheld, January 12, 2016.

[42] Human Rights Watch interview with Danu N., location withheld, January 14, 2016.

[43] Human Rights Watch interview with Dewi F., location withheld, January 14, 2016.

[44] Human Rights Watch interview with Dewi F., location withheld, January 13, 2016.

[45] Human Rights Watch interview with Dewi F., location withheld, January 14, 2016.

[46] Information Redacted for Security Purposes

[47] Human Rights Watch interview with INGO official, name, date, and location withheld.

[48] Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, Art. 29(2).

[49] Art. 28I

[50] Art. 28D; art. 28G

[51] Art. 28I; art. 28B (noting that every child has “the right to protection from violence and discrimination”).

[52] Law 39/1999 guarantees the freedom to choose and practice religion and to worship according to one’s religion and beliefs and states that the rights to freedom of thought and conscience cannot be diminished under any circumstance. Arts. 22 and 4. It also guarantees the rights to equal treatment under the law, the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to protection and security, the right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and the right to be free from discrimination. Arts. 2, 5, 24, 30, 33, and 3(3). Discrimination is defined as: “every restriction, abuse, or exclusion, directly or not directly, based on the human differentiation based on…class, social status, economic status, sex…[or] political convictions, which results in the impairment, violation, or nullification of the recognition, implementation, or exercise of human rights.”

[53] Ibid., art. 34.

[54] Human Rights Committee, General Comment 20, Article 7 (Forty-fourth session, 1992), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 30 (1994), para. 5.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Report of the Special Rapporteur, Commission on Human Rights, 53d sess., Item 8(a), U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/1997/7 (1997).

[57] Concluding observations, Committee against Torture: Indonesia, CAT/C/IDN/CO/2, July 2, 2008, para. 15.

[58] Ibid.

[59] UN Committee Against Torture, Concluding Observations, Indonesia, July 2, 2008, CAT/C/IDN/CO/2  

[60] UN Committee Against Torture, Concluding Observations, CAT/C/SRB/CO/2, 12 May 2015: Serbia; Concluding Observations, CAT/C/COL/CO/5, 12 May 2015: Colombia; Concluding Observations, CAT/C/IRQ/CO/1, 12 August 2015: Iraq; Concluding Observations, CAT/C/MKD/CO/3, 7 May 2015: former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

[61] Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, “the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in international law to the unique experiences of women, girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons,” January 5, 2016, A/HRC/31/57.

[62] Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement, 2005, (accessed February 18, 2016). 

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