JUDICIAL OBSERVATION STATEMENT - THE OBSERVATORY
As the criminal defamation trial of Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar reaches its final stages, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) denounces in the strongest terms the prolonged judicial harassment of the two Indonesian human rights defenders, which is an apparent attempt to silence them and a direct attack on the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
Paris-Geneva, December 2, 2023 – On November 27, 2023, Fatia Maulidiyanti, former Coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), FIDH Vice-President, and OMCT General Assembly member, and Haris Azhar, Executive Director of Lokataru, delivered their closing arguments in their criminal defamation trial at the East Jakarta District Court. Closing arguments from the prosecution are scheduled for December 4 at the East Jakarta District Court – the trial’s 30th hearing since its start on April 3, 2023.
“Fatia and Haris have been subjected to a judicial ordeal for more than two years for speaking truth to power and putting a spotlight on the serious human rights violations committed in Indonesia’s Papua region. The Indonesian government must strengthen legal safeguards for human rights defenders and decriminalise defamation to avoid the occurrence of other groundless prosecutions in the future,” said FIDH Asia Desk Director Andrea Giorgetta, who observed the November 27 hearing at the East Jakarta District Court.
The prosecution and trial of Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar stemmed from a criminal complaint filed in August 2021 by Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs and a retired army general, in relation to a talk show video posted on Haris Azhar’s YouTube channel on August 20, 2021. In the talk show, the two human rights defenders discussed the findings of research carried out by several environmental and human rights organisations, including KontraS, about the business activities of Indonesian army officials, both active and retired, in the gold mining sector and their alleged plans to exploit an area in Papua Province. The research alleged Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan’s involvement through his ownership of shares of a company that controlled a subsidiary active in mining operations in the area.
If found guilty under various criminal defamation provisions (Articles 310 and 311 of the Criminal Code, and Article 45(3) of the Electronic Information and Transaction Law), Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar could face up to four years in prison.
The case of Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar has revealed flaws and deficiencies in Indonesia’s legal system, which have resulted in the two defendants facing prosecution for their legitimate human rights work. In this case, as in many others, legal tools aimed at preventing strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), such as Supreme Court Regulation No. 1 of 2023 and Attorney General’s Regulation No. 8 of 2022, have been generally ineffective to shield human rights defenders from legal action. This is due to the refusal by both prosecutors and courts to apply these regulations to screen potentially malicious cases in the early stages of the investigation and the trial, respectively.
In addition, certain decisions by the investigative authority (the police) and the prosecution appeared to undermine due process and fair trial standards. For example, during the investigation process, police prematurely and arbitrarily ended any attempts to seek a mediation between the plaintiff and the defendants, pursuant to guidelines established by the Attorney General Office, the police, and the Ministry of Information for the enforcement of the Electronic Information and Transactions Law. Police instead opted to proceed with the investigation.
In addition, after the police designated Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar as suspects in March 2022, the lawyers of the two human rights defenders sought to report allegations of corruption involving Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan in connection with the operations in Papua by companies in which the minister had a stake. However, the police refused to register the complaint and investigate the allegations, which could have corroborated the claims made by the two human rights defenders against Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.
Lastly, during the investigation phase, the prosecution decided to split the case of Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar in two separate cases. This created a situation in which the two defendants could have been called as witnesses, with the risk of incriminating each other. To eliminate such risk, the two human rights defenders refused to take the witness stand, effectively foregoing their right to testify in their own defense.
The Observatory renews its calls on the Indonesian authorities to dismiss the case against Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar, put an end to the judicial harassment against them, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisal.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
- Urgent Interventions
Indonesia: Ongoing judicial harassment against Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar
- Urgent Interventions
Indonesia: Harassment against Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar