The Jakarta Post
Jakarta, Tuesday 25 October 2016
Rights activists have urged the government to increase the protection of rights defenders amid mounting violence against them.
Activists of the Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi), Protection International (PI) and Arus Pelangi said their fellow activists across the country had experienced various abuses when fighting for people’s rights.
“Activists are always abused because they are at the forefront of human rights conflicts, so the opposing side always wants to shut them down,” PI activist Cahyadi told The Jakarta Post, adding the government should protect activists.
However, according to a survey from the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the UK-based University of York, the government is the most common violator against human rights activists. The survey stated that the “government” included the police, the military and regional government officers.
Companies, particularly those related to environment and labor rights issues, come second, while fundamental religious organizations rank third, according to the survey.
The survey was conducted earlier this year on 87 human rights activists of various issues like the environment, LGBTs, women’s rights and religious freedom. The activists originated from Jakarta, Surabaya, Ambon, Aceh, Palu and Manokwari.
The survey also found that activists received various types of abuse, most commonly threats through phone calls and text messages. They also experienced assault, became subject to investigations and criminal charges and faced defamation in the media. As many as 90 percent of the respondents said they were worried about their safety.
Protection of activists is recognized in the United Nation’s 1998 Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The protection of privacy rights also appears in several laws, including Article 32 of Law No. 39/1999 on human rights.
The laws recognize the legitimacy of human rights activities and that those who carry it out have to be protected.
Many expected President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to suppress violence in his two years of rule, but activists recently said that he had failed to do so, highlighting the growing violence that the President had been unable to manage.
Kontras coordinator Haris Azhar said human rights could not be enforced in Indonesia if Jokowi still gave strategic positions to people who had been involved in human rights violations.
“The violations against human rights increased in Jokowi’s era,” he said earlier this year as quoted by tribunnews.com.
Haris said that Kontras recorded at least 300 human rights violations in 2015, higher than the previous year, or when former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was still in office.
Walhi activist Khalisah Khalid cited two human rights defenders, Salim Kancil and Yanes Balubun, who were allegedly assassinated in the past year.
In September last year, Salim was beaten to death by a group of people in Selok Awar-Awar subdistrict, Pasirian district, East Java. Salim had co-arranged a protest against invasive sand-mining in his village, which was conducted by companies.
Meanwhile, Yanes was a coordinator for the Ambon-based environmental group Humanum and the Indigenous Peoples Alliance. He passed away in April after a vehicle accident, but fellow activists argued that Yanes’ death was premeditated by parties that opposed his stance in Maluku. (adt)