Amnesty International Report 2016/17 - The State of the World's Human Rights - Indonesia

Broad and vaguely worded laws were used to arbitrarily restrict the rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association. Despite the authorities’ commitments to resolve past cases of human rights violations, millions of victims and their families were still denied truth, justice and reparation. There were reports of human rights violations by security forces, including unlawful killings and the use of excessive or unnecessary force. At least 38 prisoners of conscience remained in detention. Four people were executed.


In January, the armed group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in the capital, Jakarta, in which four attackers and four civilians were killed. In response, the government proposed changes to the Anti-Terrorism Bill, which could undermine safeguards against torture and arbitrary detention and expand the scope of the application of the death penalty. In July, retired General Wiranto was appointed as Co-ordinating Minister for Political, Law and Security Affairs. He had been indicted for crimes against humanity by a UN-sponsored tribunal in Timor-Leste. He was named as a suspect in the inquiry initiated in 1999 by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), for gross violations of human rights in East Timor surrounding the 1999 referendum. No charges had been brought against him by the end of the year.

Freedom of expression

Broad and vaguely worded laws continued to arbitrarily restrict the rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association, and of religion or belief. In July, Yanto Awerkion and Sem Ukago, Papuan political activists in Timika, were charged with “rebellion” under Article 106 of the Criminal Code. In November, prisoner of conscience Steven Itlay, leader of the Timika branch of the West Papuan National Committee was sentenced to one year in prison for “incitement” under Article 160 (see below). Another activist from Ternate, North Maluku, was charged with “rebellion” for posting online a photo of a T-shirt with a caricature of the communist hammer and sickle symbol. In May, Ahmad Mushaddeq, Andry Cahya and Mahful Muis Tumanurung, former leaders of the disbanded religious group, Gafatar, were arrested and later charged with blasphemy under Article 156a of the Criminal Code, and with “rebellion” under Articles 107 and 110 of the Code. They were penalized for peacefully practising their beliefs.

Vague language in the 2008 Electronic Information and Transaction (ITE) Law allowed for the wide interpretation of definitions of defamation and blasphemy, and the criminalization of expression. Haris Azhar, Executive Coordinator of the human rights NGO KontraS, was threatened by the police, the military and the National Anti-Narcotics Agency with defamation charges under the Law. This followed an article he published on social media linking security and law enforcement officials to drug trafficking and corruption. The charges were suspended.1 In August, Pospera, a pro-ruling party organization, filed a criminal defamation complaint under the ITE Law against I Wayan Suardana, a human rights defender from Bali. The complaint was made in response to I Wayan Suardana’s using Twitter to mock supporters of a large-scale land reclamation project by a commercial developer in Benoa Bay, southern Bali.2 The police were still investigating the complaint at the end of the year. At least 11 other activists were reported to the police by state or non-state actors for criminal defamation under the ITE Law after the activists criticized government policies.

Between April and September, at least 2,200 Papuan activists were arrested after participating in peaceful demonstrations in Jayapura, Merauke, Fakfak, Sorong and Wamena in Papua and West Papua Provinces, in Semarang in Central Java Province, in Makassar in South Sulawesi Province and in Yogyakarta Province. Most were released without charge after one day. The arbitrary arrests highlighted the ongoing repressive environment for political activists in the Papua region.3

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

Discrimination increased against LGBTI people after officials made inflammatory, grossly inaccurate or misleading statements in January on the grounds of “defending the country’s public morality and public security”. In February, police disbanded a workshop organized by a leading LGBTI NGO in Jakarta and prevented a pro-LGBTI rally from taking place in Yogyakarta.4 In the same month, the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission issued a letter calling for a ban on any television or radio broadcasts promoting LGBTI activities, to “protect the children”.

Also in February, amid increasing anti-LGBTI rhetoric, the Islamic school for transgender people, Al Fatah in Yogyakarta, was forced to close following intimidation and threats by the Islamic Jihadist Front. In June, the government voted against a resolution by the UN Human Rights Council, and again at the UN General Assembly in November, to appoint an independent expert on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Freedom of religion and belief

Discriminatory legislation continued to be used to restrict the activities of members of minority religious groups who faced harassment, intimidation and attacks. In January, a mob set alight nine houses belonging to members of the Gafatar movement in Menpawah District, West Kalimantan. After the attacks, at least 2,000 people were forcibly moved by local security forces to temporary shelters in Kubu Raya District and Pontianak City, West Kalimantan Province, and later transferred to locations on Java without prior consultation.

In February, a Joint Ministerial decree (No.93/2016) was issued by the Minister of Religious Affairs, the Attorney General and the Minister of Home Affairs proscribing the Millah Abraham religious belief, adhered to by former members of Gafatar.5

Members of the Ahmadiyya community, whose teachings are viewed as “deviant” by the government, were intimidated and threatened in various locations.6 In February, at least 12 members were forced to leave their homes in Bangka Island, off the east coast of Sumatra, after being intimidated by a group of at least 100 local residents. Members of the Ahmadiyya community had been under threat of expulsion since January when the Bangka District government issued an order that they convert to mainstream Sunni Islam or leave the district. Local authorities allowed them to return after three weeks following national and international pressure.


In April, the government organized a symposium on the 1965-66 mass human rights violations that brought together survivors, scholars, activists and artists, as well as military and other government officials. In October, the government announced that it would redress the violations using non-judicial measures to ensure “national harmony and unity”. Victims and NGOs raised concerns that this process may prioritize reconciliation while abandoning the quest for truth and justice. Authorities continued to silence and disband activities relating to 1965-66, including a film screening and a cultural festival.7

The authorities took limited steps to address serious human rights violations. In March, the National Human Rights Commission completed its investigations into the 2003 human rights violations by security forces in Jambo Keupok village, South Aceh. The Commission found that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that crimes against humanity occurred, as defined in Law No.26/2000 on Human Rights Courts. The Commission made similar findings in June in connection with security force violations in 1999 in Simpang KKA, Dewantara sub-district, North Aceh. No criminal investigations or prosecutions had been initiated by the end of the year.

In July the local Aceh provincial parliament selected seven commissioners to the Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was expected to operate between 2016 and 2020. The Commission was established to examine the circumstances which led to past abuses during the Aceh conflict between the Indonesian security forces and the Free Aceh Movement, in particular between 1989 and 2004.

In September, President Widodo made a public pledge to resolve the case of human rights defender Munir Said Thalib. In October, the Public Information Commission ruled that the 2005 report into his killing, which reportedly implicated senior intelligence officers, should be made public. The government appealed against the ruling.

Police and security forces

Reports continued of unnecessary or excessive use of force, including the use of firearms, by police and military, and of the lack of independent, effective and impartial mechanisms to investigate violations by security forces. Criminal investigations into human rights violations by police were rare, and attempts to hold alleged perpetrators to account, mostly through internal disciplinary mechanisms, left many victims without access to justice and reparation. There was no progress towards holding to account those involved in the killing of four men in December 2014 after police and military personnel opened fire on a crowd of protesters in Paniai regency, Papua Province. An inquiry in March by Komnas HAM made no progress.

In April, the then chief of the Indonesia National Police confirmed that an alleged terrorism suspect had died after being assaulted and kicked by members of the Detachment-88 counter-terrorism unit. In May, two members of Detachment 88 received administrative sanctions after an internal police hearing.

In August, officers of the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) shot dead a Papuan teenager in Sugapa, Intan Jaya regency, Papua Province. Otianus Sondegau and four others created a road block to ask for money and cigarettes from passing traffic. Police attempted to disperse the blockade violently and fired shots at the five teenagers at which point they threw stones at the police. Five officers were found guilty of “misusing firearms” after internal disciplinary hearings; four served 21-day prison sentences and another was sentenced to a year in prison related to the shooting.

In October, members of the Madiun Infantry 501 Raider Battalion attacked a journalist from NET TV who was covering a brawl between members of a military unit and a martial arts group in Madiun, East Java Province. They beat him, destroyed his camera’s memory card and threatened him if he reported the incident. Despite promises by the Armed Forces chief to investigate the attack, no one had been held to account at the end of the year.

Prisoners of conscience

At least 38 prisoners of conscience remained in detention, many for their peaceful political activism in Papua and Maluku. Prison authorities delayed access to adequate and free medical treatment to Johan Teterissa and Ruben Saiya who were suffering long-term health conditions. The two men were among at least nine prisoners of conscience from Maluku held in Java, more than 2,500km from family and friends. Steven Itlay, imprisoned in Timika, Papua, suffered ill health as a result of poor conditions and was granted only limited access to his family and lawyer.8

In May, three leaders of the Millah Abraham religious group were arrested and detained by the Indonesian National Police and were charged with “blasphemy” under Article 156a of the Criminal Code and “rebellion” under Articles 107 and 110.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Reports of torture and other ill-treatment continued. In September, Asep Sunandar died in police custody in Cianjur, West Java Province. He had been arrested, with two others, without a warrant, by three officers of the Cianjur Resort police. He was taken to an undisclosed location and later reported dead. His family said that when they visited the hospital, they saw multiple gunshot wounds to his body and his hands still tied behind his back. No investigation into the death is known to have been carried out.

Cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment

Caning was used as a punishment under Sharia law in Aceh for a range of criminal offences including selling alcohol, consensual relations, and being alone with someone of the opposite sex who was not a marriage partner or relative. At least 100 people were caned during the year. The law was applied to non-Muslims for the first time in April when a Christian woman received 28 strokes of the cane for selling alcohol.9

In October, the House of Representatives ratified Government Regulation in Lieu of Law (Perppu) No.1/2016, which amended Article 81 of Law No.23/2002 on the Protection of Children. The revised law imposed forced chemical castration as an additional punishment for those convicted of sexual violence against a child under 18. According to the revised law, chemical castration would be carried out for up to two years after the expiry of the offender’s prison term. The Indonesian Doctors’ Association stated that it would refuse to administer the procedure.

Death penalty

In July, one Indonesian national and three foreign nationals were executed, three of them while their appeals were pending. Ten other prisoners who had been moved to Nusa Kambangan Island, where the executions took place, were given last-minute stays of execution to allow for a review of their cases.

  1. Indonesia: Defamation investigation suspended (ASA 21/4734/2016)
  2. Indonesia: Defender under investigation for defamation (ASA 21/4833/2016)
  3. Indonesia: End mass arrests and crackdowns on peaceful protests (ASA 21/3948/2016)
  4. Indonesia: Stop inflammatory and discriminatory statements that put the LGBTI community at risk (ASA 21/3648/2016)
  5. Indonesia: Authorities must repeal joint ministerial decree (ASA 21/3787/2016)
  6. Indonesia: Religious minority members forcibly evicted (ASA 21/3409/2016)
  7. Indonesia: President must not undermine efforts to seek truth, justice and reparation (ASA 21/3671/2016)
  8. Indonesia: Poor prison conditions for Papuan activist (ASA 21/4085/2016)
  9. Indonesia: End caning as a punishment in Aceh (ASA 21/3853/2016)

Associated documents