Yoyok and Mahendra are serving a three-year sentence for burning a poster of President Megawati at a non-violent demonstration in Indonesia. That they and others have spent time in Indonesia's jails simply for the peaceful expression of their right to free expression in the post-Soeharto era highlights the gap between what is perceived to be a country on the road to respecting fundamental rights and the reality on the ground.
These cases also demonstrate the weakness of Indonesia's judiciary and its susceptibility to political interference. Indonesia's courts have not only failed to protect the basic rights of its citizens in these cases, but shown that Indonesia's "third branch" of government remains a long way from playing its role in a rights-respecting society. The judges in these cases have clearly failed to appreciate, or even acknowledge, the human rights implications that arise from the application of laws that severely restrict basic political rights.
This is not just the view of an international human rights organization. During one of the trials detailed above, the defense argued that "the judicial institution has even become an effective `killing machine.'"86
The failure of the judiciary to act as a brake on the more venal inclinations of the executive branch makes the need for repeal of these laws even more urgent. It is not possible to argue that such facially repressive laws pose only a hypothetical threat that can be addressed through the restraint of the executive or the jurisprudence of the judiciary. This progeny of colonialism and homegrown dictatorship must be relegated to the dustbin of history as soon as possible.