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Human Rights in Republic of Indonesia

Amnesty International Report 2008

Head of state and government: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 228.1 million
Life expectancy: 69.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 46/37 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 90.4 per cent

Torture, excessive use of force and unlawful killings by police and security forces were reported. Most perpetrators of gross human rights violations in the past, including in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD), Papua, and Timor-Leste, continued to enjoy impunity. The situation in Papua remained tense with increasing targeted attacks and threats against human rights activists and church leaders. The number of possible prisoners of conscience increased sharply with up to 76 people detained for peacefully expressing their political or religious views.

Police and security forces

Human rights violations by police and military personnel included excessive use of force during demonstrations and arrests, fatal shootings and torture.

  • In January, two gay men were reportedly beaten, kicked and verbally abused by neighbours before being arbitrarily detained by police. They were taken to Banda Raya police post, Aceh province, where they suffered further sexual abuse and other forms of torture and ill-treatment. It appears the men were targeted solely because of their sexual orientation.
  • In May, four people, including a pregnant woman, were shot and killed during a clash between marines and villagers over disputed land. A further eight, including a four-year-old child, were injured. In July, the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) asked the military to allow residents to continue using the disputed land in Pasuruan while awaiting a permanent court ruling, and urged the government and the military to compensate the victims for the losses they and their families have suffered. Thirteen marines were named as suspects in the shootings. By the end of the year, none had been prosecuted and all had resumed their duties.
  • In November, the Special Rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, visited Indonesia. He concluded that given the lack of legal and institutional safeguards and the prevailing structural impunity, people deprived of their liberty were extremely vulnerable to torture and other ill-treatment.
  • Freedom of expression

    Freedom of expression continued to be severely restricted. There was a sharp increase in attacks and threats against human rights defenders following the visit in June of Hina Jilani, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders. The UN Special Representative expressed concerns over the persistent impunity for past violations committed against human rights defenders, and the lack of concrete initiatives by the government to protect defenders including specific protection for defenders working on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and HIV/AIDS. She highlighted the continuing harassment and intimidation of defenders by the police, military and other security and intelligence agencies and the restrictions on access to victims and sites of human rights violations, particularly in Papua.

    Up to 63 people were arrested and detained for peacefully expressing their views. An additional 13, imprisoned in previous years, remained in jail.

  • In June, at least 21 people were arrested in Ambon, Maluku province, following a visit by the President. According to reports, dancers performing a traditional local dance in front of the President were arrested after they raised the Maluku independence flag. During interrogation they were allegedly beaten and threatened. Most of them were charged with "rebellion" under Articles 106 and 110 of the criminal code that is punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. They were possible prisoners of conscience.
  • In July, the Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional Articles 154 and 155 of the Criminal Code commonly known as the 'hate sowing' offences. The Articles criminalized "public expression of feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt toward the government" and prohibited "the expression of such feelings or views through the public media". These offences had often been used by the government to restrict peaceful criticism and jail political opponents, critics, students and human rights defenders. The ruling was widely welcomed, although it did not apply retroactively. Prisoners of conscience Filep Karma sentenced to 15 years, and Yusak Pakage sentenced to 10 years, remained in jail. Both were convicted partly under these articles in May 2005 for raising the Papuan flag.
  • Papua

    The low-level conflict between the security forces and pro-independence militants in Papua continued. The military repeatedly threatened local community members who supported independence through peaceful means. An army official who had been indicted for crimes against humanity in Timor-Leste, but had yet to face trial, was nominated as military commander in the Papuan capital, Jayapura. Reported human rights violations by security forces included extrajudicial executions, torture and excessive use of force.

  • Albert Rumbekwan, director of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) in Papua, received death threats and was kept under surveillance following the visit by the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders.

  • Death penalty

    In April Ayub Bulubili was executed by firing squad for the premeditated murder of a family of six. At least 115 people were known to be under sentence of death at the end of 2007.

    In February, a group of Indonesian lawyers filed for a judicial review of the 1997 Narcotics Law before the Constitutional Court. They argued that its provision of death sentences for drug offences contradicted the 1945 Constitution, which guarantees the right to life. Their lawyers represented five people who had been sentenced to death for drug-related offences Edith Yunita Sianturi, Rani Andriani (Melisa Aprilia), and three Australian citizens, Myuran Sukumaran, Andrew Chan and Scott Anthony Rush. The Constitutional Court rejected the appeal in October.


    In May, the new Attorney General, Hendarman Supandji, filed for a Supreme Court review of the 2004 murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib, for which no one had been held to account.

    The Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) established jointly by Indonesia and Timor-Leste to document crimes committed in Timor-Leste in 1999 and to promote reconciliation, began its fact-finding work through public and closed hearings in February. In July, the UN Secretary General instructed UN officials not to testify before the CTF unless the terms of reference were revised to comply with international standards, noting that the UN did not endorse or condone amnesties for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or gross violations of human rights, nor should it do anything that might foster amnesties. Concerns were also expressed by national and international observers about the CTF's treatment of victims during hearings and possible biased weighting of the testimonies of military officials, militia members and bureaucrats over those given by victims. The CTF mandate was extended until early 2008.

    Discrimination and violence against women

    In March, the Human Trafficking Criminal Actions Eradication Draft Bill (anti-trafficking bill) became law. Local NGOs welcomed the inclusion of a definition of sexual exploitation, provisions on the facilitation of trafficking, and immunity for victims. However, they noted insufficient provisions to prevent child trafficking and in particular the need to make this abuse distinct from other provisions related to human trafficking.

    Women domestic workers, who are excluded from the national Manpower Act, suffered violations of labour rights as well as physical and psychological abuse, including of a sexual nature, in the workplace. Although the Ministry of Manpower prepared draft legislation on domestic workers in June 2006, no steps were taken to enact the law. Domestic workers therefore remained excluded from legal enforcement of maximum hours of work, a minimum wage and specific protections for female employees covered for other workers in the Manpower Act.


    Indonesia has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in southeast Asia, an estimated 230-310 women die each year for every 100,000 births. In February, the WHO highlighted the main causes, which included female genital mutilation (FGM); marriages at an early age; lack of access to sexual and reproductive health information, education and services; lack of access to professional health services during pregnancy and childbirth; lack of knowledge about sexually transmitted disease, HIV/AIDS and contraceptive services; and the high incidence of unsafe abortions.

    In February, a joint study by the Health Ministry and the WHO highlighted the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS among high-risk groups, including drug users, transsexuals and sex workers, particularly in parts of Indonesia with inadequate healthcare services. A government-sponsored survey found that over two per cent of people in Papua were infected with HIV, compared to 0.2 per cent of the general populace in Indonesia. In November, for the first time, a national campaign to promote condom use was launched.

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