INDONESIA: Police overlook vigilante dispersal and intimidation of public events

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is concerned by the Indonesian police’s failure to protect and ensure the right to freedom of expression and assembly of various groups over the past two months. In fact, the police’s negligence and indifference towards vigilante groups that forcibly disperse and intimidate peaceful events organized by these groups amounts to a violation of their fundamental rights.

Several cases of such forced dissolution over the last two months include:

On 26 February 2016, an anti-communist vigilante group accompanied by local police officers surrounded and forcibly dispersed the Turn Left festival, a peaceful cultural festival, organized by human rights activists in Ismail Marzuki park, Jakarta.

On March 23, an anti communist vigilante group forcibly dispersed and intimidated the local organizers of a monologue on Tan Malaka, a peaceful event in Bandung city, West Java Province.

On April 1, an intolerant mob forcibly dispersed and attacked a religious group gathering at the Islamic Women Center (ISWOC) in Pasuruan regency, East Java province.

On April 2, local police officers accompanied by a local vigilante group forcibly dispersed a feminist festival, and the police officers fired into the air to intimidate the organizers in Bantul regency, Yogyakarta province.

On April 3, the vigilante Islamic Defender Front (FPI) forcibly dispersed and intimidated a peaceful public event organized by the Association of Islamic Students (HMI) in Pekan Baru city, Riau Province.

All the above incidents indicate that the Indonesian police and security forces do not have the good will and commitment to protect all civilians without discrimination. Despite the issuance of some internal regulations regarding human rights protection, police officers on the field tend to overlook the regulations, and neglect the intimidation and forced dissolution conducted by vigilante groups. In several cases, the police even participate in the dispersal and prohibition of peaceful public events conducted by civilians.

Article 28 of the Indonesian Constitution (UUD 1945) clearly guarantees and protects the right to freedom of expression, opinion and assembly. Moreover, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the government does not show seriousness in implementing the Covenant. Since Indonesia’s 2013 review and evaluation by the Human Rights Committee, the government has shown no progress to strengthen human rights protection. Rather, through its security forces, the government tends to ignore the threats, intimidation and attack against people’s right to freedom of opinion, assembly and expression in public.

The AHRC is therefore calling upon the Government of Indonesia to ensure that the security forces, in particular the police, protect and respect the right to freedom of expression, opinion and assembly of all persons without discrimination. Furthermore, the parliament, in particular Commission III related to Law and Human Rights, should strongly clarify with the National Chief Police about the varied instances of police ignorance and negligence towards intimidation and force dispersal of peaceful protests. In particular, the police should conduct an investigation into the incidents without delay, and punish those found responsible according to the law. Lastly, the Government should take note and act upon any recommendations made by UN bodies, such as the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

Source: Human Rights