A Written Submission to the 37th Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre

A Written Submission to the 37th Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre

INDONESIA: Impunity strengthened while past human rights abuses remain forgotten

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to inform the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) of the lack of seriousness of President JokoWidodo’s government in resolving past human rights abuses. This is contrary to the Nawa Cita, President Widodo’s vision and mission, which clearly states that he will ensure prosecution of past human rights abuses cases, and it also has a breakdown into a National Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMN 2014-2019), which states that the government will ensure protection of its citizens. The RPJMN also clearly states that human rights cases are one of the government’s priorities.

Since the April 2016 national symposium discussing the 1965-1966 massacre, there has been no further effort made by the government to deal with past abuses. At the same time, several retired army generals allegedly involved in past human rights abuses have been appointed as cabinet members by President Widodo. Retired Army General Wiranto for instance, allegedly involved in crimes against humanity in East Timor during the 1999 referendum, and in the Trisakti and Semanggi student shootings of 1998-1999, has been appointed as Coordinator Minister of Politic, Law and Security (Menkopolhukam). Retired Army General Ryamizard Ryacudu, former army chief, has been appointed as Defense Minister. He is allegedly involved in the murder of prominent Papuan activist Mr. Theys Hiyo Elluay. Furthermore, while Army Chief in 2003, Ryacudu led the implementation of martial law by the Indonesian Armed Forces in Aceh Province, which caused various human rights violations.

Retired Army General Hendro Priyono meanwhile, has a very close relationship with President Widodo, having played a strategic role in supporting Widodo during the presidential election. Priyono is alleged to have been involved in the Talangsari massacre as well as the murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib.

Since 2003, seven cases of past human rights abuses submitted by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to the Attorney General (AG) for further investigation, as regulated by Law No 26 of 2000 on Human Rights Court, are sitting in the AG’s office with no further investigation undertaken. These seven cases are: 1# Student shootings in Trisakti and Semanggi 1998-1999; 2# Enforced disappearances of student activists 1997-1998; 3# May tragedy 13-15 May 1998; 4# Talangsari massacre 6-7 February 1989; 5# 1965-1966 massacre; 6# Mysterious shooting 1981-1983; 7# Wasior and Wamena Papua 2001-2003. Continue reading

60 Years of diplomatic relations with Indonesia: black marks on the record card

GUEST BLOG: Maire Leadbeater – 60 Years of diplomatic relations with Indonesia: black marks on the record card

By   /   February 27, 2018  /   No Comments

TDB recommends Voyager – Unlimited internet @home as fast as you can getThe Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a snazzy theme to promote the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Indonesia: ‘60 years as friends for good’.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a snazzy theme to promote the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Indonesia: ‘60 years as friends for good’.

I’m all for friendship with the Indonesian people, but the diplomatic relationship has been badly marred over the years by our complicity and silence in the face of a long list of human rights crimes.  The 24 year Indonesian occupation of East Timor is a well-known example, but there are other egregious examples including  the matter of the 1965 massacres, when the ‘New Order’ regime set about killing half a million people accused of  ‘communist sympathies’.  New Zealand officials were well-informed about the scale and arbitrary nature of killings,  but they welcomed Suharto’s rise to power and one diplomat told a  1967 parliamentary committee that the transfer of power had been ‘surprisingly peaceful’.   At that time New Zealand’s diplomatic representation in Jakarta was upgraded from a Legation to a full Embassy.

New Zealand’s diplomatic relations with Indonesia began in 1958 when Dr A. Y. Helmi, Indonesia’s Canberra based Ambassador,  was accredited to New Zealand, and in 1961 New Zealand’s Colombo Plan office in Jakarta was upgraded to a Consulate General.   Back then there was a strong focus on New Zealand aid – especially educational and technical training support.

One of the first clouds on the horizon came in 1960.   The future of Netherlands New Guinea, as it was at the time, was at a crossroads. The Dutch were preparing the territory for eventual independence, but Indonesia was insisting that it should be incorporated into the Indonesian Republic.  The other half of the New Guinea island –today’s Papua New-Guinea- was administered by Australia under UN mandate.  New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Walter Nash, put forward a proposal that the two halves of the New Guinea Island should be placed under joint trusteeship and prepared for eventual independence as one country.  Nash put forward his initiative in The Hague in May 1960 and this prompted a trip across the Tasman by Dr Helmi.  Declassified reports show that Dr Helmi’s attempt to sway Mr Nash from his position wasn’t successful. Nash said that the people of New Guinea might need more time to get ready, but one day, like people everywhere, they would want to be independent.

Nash underestimated the forces against him – the United States and Australia had come to the conclusion that Indonesia mattered more to them than the people of West Papua,  and were quietly letting the Dutch know that they would be on their own should Indonesia carry out its threats of force.  But he was on the right track and over the years Papuan leaders have often upheld the idea of one united country: ‘from Sorong to Samarai’.

Unfortunately, New Zealand soon fell into line, burying its qualms about the way the 1962 US brokered ‘New York agreement’ handed the territory to Indonesia on a plate.   Our Ambassador observed part of the subsequent 1969 so-called ‘Act of Free Choice’, and described a stage-managed process, but his critical report did not prompt any action.  During the UN debate that followed, New Zealand stayed silent, leaving it to newly independent African nations to speak up for the West Papuan people .

New Zealand acquiesced to Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor and helped Indonesia to cover up subsequent crimes even as the death toll approached  200,000. Three New Zealanders died in East Timor at the hands of the Indonesian military or militia during the Indonesian occupation:  photo-journalist Gary Cunningham in 1975, human rights activist Kamal Bamadhaj in 1991 and peacekeeper Leonard Manning in 2000.  Notwithstanding, New Zealand has worked hard to develop and maintain a close bilateral relationship with Indonesia – and because the military is so influential in Indonesian affairs that has included defence ties.  Military training ties were suspended in 1999 after the cataclysmic violence in East Timor but resumed again in 2007 in the absence of any indication that the military had changed its spots or been held accountable for its crimes in East Timor.

Sadly, this is very much an ongoing issue as New Zealand says as little as possible about Indonesia’s ongoing crime of ‘slow genocide’ in West Papua.  In January it emerged that dozens of children of  the  Asmat tribe had died of measles exacerbated by widespread malnutrition. The Asmat,  famed for their elaborate carving and wood sculptures, struggle to preserve their way of life and diet against the predations of forestry, palm oil plantations and mining. Yet they live, metaphorically speaking,   in the shadow of the Freeport  McMoran gold and copper mine, Indonesia’s largest taxpayer.

The Papuans are calling for their right to self-determination to be respected but for successive New Zealand governments that is an ‘s’ word, never to be uttered for fear of offending Indonesia.   Sixty years yes, for good – hardly.


Maire Leadbeater is one of NZs leading human rights activists. Currently her focus is the human rights abuses in West Papua.

ULMWP Can Pass Muster: Foreign Minister

ULMWP Can Pass Muster: Foreign Minister





In a brief message yesterday, Vanuatu Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu responded to an Indonesian spokesman’s claims by Indonesia’s First Secretary for Political Affairs in Australia that West Papua’s ‘game is up’.

Radio New Zealand reported earlier this week that Mr Sade Bimantara said that the “United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s bid to be a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead group has reached a dead end.”

In the interview with RNZI’s Johnny Blades, Mr Bimantara opined “I don’t think they qualify to be a full member of the MSG. They are not a state, and as opposed to Kanaks, they are not on the C24 (UN) Decolonisation Committee, they are not on the list, West Papua. And also the separatist group does not obtain full support from all the West Papuans. And West Papua and Papua is also politically free, so there’s no reason for the MSG to accept them as full members.”

This was disputed yesterday by Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister. In an email exchange with the Daily Post, Mr Regenvanu wrote, “Well, that’s for the MSG Leaders to decide once the application is presented to them.

“Technically, the ULMWP can meet the new criteria just agreed upon.”

The issue, he wrote, would not be decided by the technicalities outlined by Indonesia’s spokesman. “The question is only whether a political compromise can be achieved by the MSG Leaders before the next Summit at which the application for membership will be considered.”

“Vanuatu is working on achieving this political compromise,” he concluded.

Mr Regenvanu has been an outspoken supporter of West Papuan Independence movement. One of his last acts as Lands Minister before he took up the Foreign Affairs portfolio was to facilitate a grant of land to provide the United Liberation Movement for West Papua a permanent headquarters in Port Vila.

A ULMWP statement following the announcement of Mr Regenvanu’s appointment to the portfolio said that it “is certainly a very effective state policy closely linked to the direction of the effective support of… Vanuatu for the West Papuan independence struggle.”



INDONESIA: Environment activists in Tumpang Pitu sentenced to 10-month imprisonment


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-001-2018

8 February 2018

[RE: AHRC-UAC-101-2017: Mining operations in Tumpang Pitu result in environmental damage and fabricated charges; AHRC-UAU-006-2017: Tumpang Pitu villager in mining operations is the victim of a fabricated case]
INDONESIA: Environment activists in Tumpang Pitu sentenced to 10-month imprisonment

ISSUES: Environmental damages, fair trial, impunity, remedy, due process of law, Rule of Law, fabricated case, human rights defenders

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the Banyuwangi district court’s sentence of Mr. Heri Budiawan alias Budi Pego, an environment activist, to 10-months imprisonment. In addition, three other activists as well as community members also have been named as suspects, and an investigation is still going on. Budi Pego along with the local community of Sumberagung village conducted advocacy efforts to stop the mining operation in Tumpang Pitu, Banyuwangi regency, East Java province. They called for the protection of the environment, but were criminally charged with crimes against the State. Budi and the other three activists /community members were falsely accused of putting and circulating the Communism logo (hammer and sickle) on their anti-mining banners.


On Tuesday, 23 January 2018, the judges of Banyuwangi district court sentenced Mr. Heri Budiawan (also known as Budi Pego) on the charges of spreading Communist ideology. The judges sentenced him to 10-month imprisonment, a much lower sentence than the prosecutor’s petition of seven years.

The case began on 4 March 2017, when Budi Pego and the local community of Sumberagung village, Pesanggrahan sub-district organized a peaceful protest, displaying banners of “reject mining” against the Bumi Suksesindo Company (PT. Bumi Suksesindo/PT BSI) in Tumpang Pitu, Banyuwangi regency. Budi Pego and the local community displayed the banners along the road of Pulau Merah until the Pesanggrahan sub-district office. Suddenly, at 12 p.m., five unknown persons carrying cameras approached the community members, and gave two banners to them. The unknown persons requested the community to display these two banners as well, and then took some pictures of them.

According to some witnesses, it is impossible for Budi Pego or the locals to put the Communist hammer and sickle logo on the banners, as the police officers guarding the protest would immediately have arrested them. This did not occur.

Moreover, the public prosecutor was not able to present the two Communist banners as evidence during the trial process in Banyuwangi district court. The judges have ignored this lack of evidence and merely considered the expert testimony presented by the public prosecutors, while ignoring the expert testimony presented by the public defenders. The expert presented by the public defenders stated that the hammer and sickle in the banner shown in the court through video is not enough and cannot be included as a proper evidence without the two original banners. The expert added that the local community involved in the peaceful anti-mining protest had not said a single word about Communism or Marxism.

Besides Mr. Budi Pego, in total there are three more local environment activists who have been named as suspects: Mr. Cipto Andreas, Mr. Trimanto and Ms. Dwiratnasari. The police charged them using article 107a of Law No 27 of 1999 on the revision of the Criminal Law related to crimes against the State. In Article 107 a, it states that “Anyone who publicly violates the law with oral, written and/or through any media, disseminates or teaches Communism/Marxism-Leninism in any kind of forms is punishable by a maximum of 12 (twelve) years imprisonment.”


Communism is still used as a tool to restrict or even criminally charge human rights defenders who critique and advocate against the government policy not in favor of human rights and rule of law. Last year the AHRC also noted human rights violations committed by anti communist mobs against human rights groups, for instance forced dissolution and brutal attack against public discussion organized by the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, Jakarta Legal Aid and association of victims and family of victims 1965-1966 massacre (AHRC-UAC-130-2017). We also documented and reported harassment and forced dissolution of movie screenings and workshops organized by civil society in some provinces of Indonesia such as West Java, Yogyakarta and East Java province.


Please write to the authorities listed below. Ask them to ensure that all criminal charges against Mr. Heri Budiawan, known as Budi Pego, an environment activist and a villager of Sumber Agung village, Banyuwangi, East Java Province, must be evaluated by the High Court of East Java province and the Supreme Court under fair trial principles. We also urge the police to stop any criminal charges against three other environment activists and also local community members, considering that under Indonesian law number 32 of 1999 on Environmental Protection, article 66 states, “Everybody struggling for a right to proper and healthy environment may not be charged with criminal or civil offense.” Furthermore, the government must immediately conduct legal audit upon the mining company operated in Tumpang Pitu, and the audit must be transparent, accountable and accessible for public (in particular local community) and media. Local community’s input and information about environmental damages due to mining operation in Tumpang Pitu must also be considered by the government.

The AHRC will write a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, calling for their intervention into this matter. Continue reading

Jokowi to send critics to monitor condition in Asmat

Jokowi to send critics to monitor condition in Asmat Illustration. Residents are waiting for queue when they seek treatment at a community health center in Bayiwpinam village, Akat District, Asmat District, Papua. (ANTARA/M Agung Rajasa) ()


Situbondo, E Java (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has expressed his wish to send students to monitor the condition in Asmat, in the eastern province of Papua, after they criticized him over the situation.

“Perhaps, later, I will send the chairmen and members of Student Executive Board (BEM) from the top state University of Indonesia (UI) to Asmat,” he said, after attending an event in Salafiyah Safi`iyah Islamic boarding school in Sukorejo, Situbondo, East Java, on Saturday.

The chief of BEM of UI, Zaadit Taqwa, raised a yellow book to warn Jokowi over the recent spread of measles and malnutrition, which have claimed lives in Asmat, after the president gave a speech at an event to mark the university`s anniversary on Friday.

“Let them check the situation there for themselves and the big problems that we are facing in regions, especially Papua,” Jokowi noted.

He added that he had no problem with the student`s action. “Such a dynamic is common. He is a young activist. It is something common. I think it is good that there is someone to remind us,” he remarked.

BEM UI has demanded three things from the president. The first is related to the malnutrition problem in Papua, the second is connected to the idea of naming active police officers as acting governors, and the third is about the student organization, which is considered to limit students` movement.

Jokowi has sent a team to help measles patients, conduct vaccination programs, and prepare measures to deal with the post-outbreak condition. More than 71 children have died due to the measles outbreak in Asmat.

The president has also offered to relocate the people of Asmat to enable them to have better access to health facilities.

Reported by Desca Lidya Natalia