Despite the democratic hopes raised by his election, Joko Widodo’s presidency is far from meeting expectations with regard to human rights defenders. HRDs in Indonesia face threats, intimidation, restrictions on their freedom of expression and assembly, judicial harassment including criminal defamation suits, stigmatisation, arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment, torture, forced disappearances and killings. Impunity in cases of murders of HRDs and grave human rights violations committed under the previous regime is thriving. HRDs criticising past or present abuses are also targeted and persecuted.
In various provinces of Indonesia, political movements call for independence and/or self-determination. In these areas, individuals carrying out peaceful activities in defence of human rights are particularly at risk as they are targeted by both the authorities and insurgent groups. Attacks targeting defenders in Jakarta, Aceh and West Papua have escalated over the past decade, while the lack of media access to West Papua impacts the work of HRDs. Violence against local journalists continues to grow. Papuan rights activists have been arbitrarily arrested after participating in peaceful demonstrations. LGBTI rights defenders are also particularly at risk, amidst increased anti-LGBTI rhetoric and discrimination after officials made inflammatory statements on the grounds of “defending the country’s public morality and public security”. They are also threatened by extremist Islamist groups.
Freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association have been arbitrarily restricted by overly broad and vague laws. HRDs have been charged with “rebellion” under Articles 106, 107 and 110 of the Criminal Code, “incitement” under Article 160 and blasphemy under Article 156a. The 2008 Electronic Information and Transaction (ITE) Law criminalizes the distribution or accessibility of information that is “contrary to the moral norms of Indonesia” and provides a vague definition of defamation and blasphemy, which allows for arbitrary interpretation. The law also extends libel and other restrictions to online media. Anti-terrorist legislation is used to target HRDs; many have been labeled insurgents in an attempt to undermine their legitimate work.