February 17, 2022
Mr. Mohamad Oemar
47-49, rue Cortambert
75116 Paris, France
Re: Concerns about human rights defenders at risk of persecution in Indonesia
Dear Ambassador Oemar,
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), which aims to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders, wishes to draw your attention to the judicial harassment against Fatia Maulidiyanti, Coordinator of human rights organisation KontraS, and Haris Azhar, Executive Director of Lokataru Foundation.
In a video posted on Haris Azhar’s YouTube channel on August 20, 2021, Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti discuss the findings of a 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 the Blok Wabu area in Sugapa District, Intan Jaya Regency, Papua Province. The video claims that Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs and a retired army general, owns shares of PT Toba Sejahtera Group (TS), a company that controls PT Tobacom Del Mandiri (TDM), one of the mining companies that are involved in the mining operations in the Blok Wabu area.
Subsequently, on August 26, 2021, Mr. Pandjaitan, subpoenaed the defenders, requesting them to explain the reason for posting the video and to apologise to the Coordinating Minister within five days through Mr. Azhar’s YouTube channel, mass media, and online media, and to promise not to reoffend. Furthermore, in the subpoena, Mr. Pandjaitan threatened to take further legal action against Mr. Azhar and Ms. Maulidiyanti under Article 45(3) of the amended Electronic Information and Transactions Law, as well as Articles 310 (“attacking someone’s honour or reputation with accusations”) and 311 (“defamation”) of the Criminal Code, if M. Azhar and Ms. Maulidiyanti did not comply with his demands. Since both human rights defenders stood by their position and refused to apologise, and after a failed mediation attempt, the Coordinating Minister filed a report to the police on September 22, 2021 against M. Azhar and Ms. Maulidiyanti, accusing them of defamation, slander, and “fake news”. The proceedings are currently ongoing. The report submitted by Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan appears to be an attempt to criminalise freedom of expression and opinion.
We are concerned that these actions by the Coordinating Minister are a form of judicial harassment and abuse of power. Fatia Maulidiyanti, Haris Azhar, and all other human rights defenders in Indonesia have a right to express their opinion, as guaranteed by Indonesia’s Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Indonesia is a state party.
In addition, we recall that, in October 2021, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association expressed their concerns about the use by Indonesian government public officials of the Electronic, Information, and Transaction Law to threaten activists or human rights defenders for speaking out about the human rights situation in Indonesia.
Moreover, in its General Comment 34, the UN Human Rights Committee urges state parties to the ICCPR to decriminalise defamation and calls on those retaining criminal defamation provisions to ensure that such clauses do not carry a punishment of imprisonment.
Therefore, we are kindly requesting you to urge the Indonesian government to:
1. Immediately end the prosecution against the human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar;
2. Protect human rights defenders against criminalisation and take effective measures to address the abuse of authority by government officials who intimidate human rights defenders;
3. Revise or repeal repressive legislation currently enshrined in Indonesian laws, including the provisions about criminal defamation, which tend to repress human rights defenders’ for the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of opinion and expression.
We convey our sincere hope that you will take into consideration our concerns and we thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter.
FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
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 intervene 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.