FORUM-ASIA calls for dropping of charges against Indonesian human rights defenders

FORUM-ASIA calls for dropping of charges against Indonesian human rights defenders

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and its 31 members have called on the Indonesian government to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar in a statement on Wednesday (12 Apr).

The group also urged authorities to stop enacting further reprisals against dissenting voices in the country.

Maulidiyanti, Coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras), and Azhar, Co-founder and Director of Lokataru, appeared before the East Jakarta District Court on 3 April 2023 for the first hearing on criminal defamation charges reported by Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan.

The case is related to a YouTube video published on 20 August 2021, in which Maulidiyanti and Azhar discussed the alleged involvement of several retired Indonesian National Armed Forces Generals, including Pandjaitan, in mining exploitation in Blok Wabu, Intan Jaya Regency, Papua.

Both were accused of criminal defamation under Article 27(3) of the Electronic Information and Transaction (EIT) Law, and if found guilty, they could face up to four years in prison.

Since the case was reported in September 2021, Maulidiyanti and Azhar have been subject to judicial harassment, including online harassment, subpoenas, and forced summons by the police at their respective residences. These actions create a chilling effect and a climate of fear, silencing those who expose cases of corruption and human rights violations.

FORUM-ASIA believes that the case against Maulidiyanti and Azhar is an act of retaliation against human rights defenders who demand transparency and accountability from the government and public officials.

The group reminds the Indonesian government of its obligation to uphold the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and abide by international laws that protect the rights of human rights defenders.

Many international civil society organizations, including FORUM-ASIA, have expressed grave concern and condemned the escalating defamation case. They emphasized that criticism and information should not be used to repress human rights defenders.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted Indonesia’s 4th Cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Report at the 52nd UN Human Rights Council Session on 23 March 2023. However, protection of civic space still remains a concern.

Following a review of Indonesia’s human rights record last year, the country supported 205 of the 269 recommendations received, noted 59, and provided partial support for five recommendations. Eight of these recommendations dealt with freedom of expression and association, calling for the repeal or revision of regulations such as the EIT law.

FORUM-ASIA is concerned with the continuous misuse of the EIT Law against critical voices in Indonesia. Instead of addressing disinformation, the law has been used to attack human rights defenders and restrict freedom of expression. Such abuse of the law exemplifies the country’s shrinking civic space.

FORUM-ASIA and its members called on the Indonesian government and the Public Prosecutor Office to drop all charges and end judicial harassment against Maulidiyanti and Azhar.

They urged the government to uphold freedom of expression and the public’s right to access information, protect human rights defenders, and ensure that they are able to carry out their important work freely and safely.

Endorsing organisations:

  1. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  2. Association of Women for Awareness & Motivation (AWAM), Pakistan
  3. Bir Duino, Kyrgyzstan
  4. Bytes for All, Pakistan
  5. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
  6. Centre for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia
  7. Centre for the Sustainable Use of Natural and Social Resources (CSNR), India
  8. Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN), Afghanistan
  9. Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence – Komisi untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Tindak Kekerasan (KontraS), Indonesia
  10. Community Resource Centre (CRC), Thailand
  11. Defence of Human Rights, Pakistan
  12. Dignity-Kadyr-kassiyet (KK), Kazakhstan
  13. Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI)
  14. Human Rights Online Philippines
  15. Indonesian Human Rights Monitor – Inisiatif Masyarakat Partisipatif untuk Transisi Berkeadilan (Imparsial), Indonesia
  16. Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI)
  17. Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation – Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia (YLBHI)
  18. Jagriti Child and Youth Concern Nepal (JCYCN), Nepal
  19. Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS), South Korea
  20. Madaripur Legal Aid Association, Bangladesh
  21. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN)
  22. Odhikar, Bangladesh
  23. Peoples Watch, India
  24. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
  25. Progressive Voice, Myanmar
  26. Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia
  27. Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), Bangladesh
  28. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  29. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)
  30. The Awakening, Pakistan
  31. Think Centre, Singapore
  32. Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), Nepal
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