ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
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
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