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Strenghtwning The State’s Commitment to Realizing Protection for Human Rights Defenders

Foto: Dok. Kemitraan

Jakarta, 27 Januari 2022 – Human rights defenders continue to be under pressure. Particularly civil society in the environmental sector is facing increasing difficulties, despite initiatives of the government to uphold human rights and protect human rights defenders. A continuous challenge, for which governments, civil society and the judiciary need to step up their collaboration in order to create a safe and transparent environment for all.

As an example, ELSAM data showed that there were more than twice as many attacks on human rights defenders in the environmental sector during 2019-2020, from 27 to 60 cases. KEMITRAAN, who are members of the Coalition for Human Rights Defenders, recorded 116 attacks against human rights defenders in the environmental sector in 2020. The Indonesian National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) and The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) stated that the government was failing to uphold human rights.

From early 2019 to the end of 2021, KEMITRAAN, supported by the Kingdom of Netherlands, carry out programs on Environmental Sector Protection of Human Rights Defenders for Sustainable Development in Indonesia. The main objective of this program is to promote the protection and security of human rights defenders, especially environmentalists. The program has worked towards policy changes and increasing community capacity. This program collaborated with community organization partners, namely at the national level, ELSAM, ICEL, Imparsial and LBH Pers. The community organization partners on regional level are LBH Semarang, Celebes Institute, JATAM Central Sulawesi, Yayasan Suara Nurani Minaesa, JATAM East Kalimantan, WALHI Sumatera Barat, WALHI South Sumatera dan WALHI East Java. The program also involves ministries and state institutions related to human rights

This program is implemented in seven provinces, West Sumatra, South Sumatra, DKI Jakarta, Central Java, East Java, Central Sulawesi, North Sulawesi, and reached over 2000 grassroots human rights defenders who are fighting for the right to a clean source of life and environment through advocacy trainings, knowledge exchange, and joint advocacy.

In order to disseminate various knowledge and also to close the program, KEMITRAAN held a hybrid seminar entitled Strengthening State Commitment to Achieve Protection for Human Rights Defenders on Thursday, January 27, 2022 at Erasmus Huis, Jakarta. Participants who attended in person on a limited basis and via virtual came from beneficiaries, community organization partners, government representatives, media and the general public.

The event was opened by Laode M. Syarif as the Executive Director of KEMITRAAN, who stated that the increasing cases of violence and criminalization of human rights defenders, especially environmental defenders, showed that the Government has not been successful at protecting and enforcing human rights. “KEMITRAAN appreciates the support of the Kingdom of Netherlands and our local and regional partners who have produced various policy recommendations for the government in protecting human rights defenders in the environmental sector. Such as the preparation of draft academic texts and draft amendments to the Human Rights Law, draft amendments to regulation 5/2015 concerning Procedures for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and implementation guidelines as well as policy papers as input to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Rapermen related to Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (Anti-SLAPP). Hopefully this policy recommendation will encourage the government to continue in its promotion of human rights to advance democracy in Indonesia,” said Laode M. Syarif, Executive Director of KEMITRAAN.

 Ardi Stoios-Braken, Deputy Head of Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 

Lambert Grijns, the ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Indonesia emphasized the necessity of cooperation between the government, civil society and the judiciary. “Governments should make sure to include human rights defenders and journalists in their work, and should protect them. They are their eyes and ears on the ground, and although critical feedback is sometimes difficult, it is the first step towards development.’’

“In North Sulawesi, there have been many cases of environmental damage. One example is the Buyat incident. Currently, I am working with Save Sangihe Island in an effort to prevent mining on Sangihe Island because this area is a ring of fire and serves as a source of livelihood for its residents. It is also home to a rare bird, Sariwang Sangihe. KEMITRAAN’s support strengthens the capacity of citizens in advocacy and building security protection, helping our struggle in the midst of the lack of state protection,” said Jull Takaliuang, a woman human rights defender and director of the Minaesa Suara Nurani Foundation, North Sulawesi.

Mahfud MD as the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs in his keynote address which was delivered virtually at this event acknowledged that human rights violations are not easy to solve due to the complicated evidence and political problems. “The government has issued Presidential Regulation no. 53 of 2021 concerning the National Action Plan on Human Rights. This regulation is intended to promote, fulfill, respect, protect and enforce human rights, outside of routine matters such as monitoring, evaluation and reporting. The second step is the establishment of a Business and Human Rights Task Force that includes the community and companies, to participate in respecting human rights in various fields. Hopefully, this seminar can provide recommendations and encouragement for all of us to realize our commitment in the field. Because all of us, both the government and the community, have an interest in the fulfillment and promotion of human rights,” said Mahfud MD.

After the official opening of the event, the first session entitled State Political Commitment and the Urgency of Protection Policy for Human Rights Defenders presented the following speakers:

  1. Prof. Dr, Surya Jaya (Justice of the Supreme Court)
  2. Taufik Basari, S.H., L.LM (Commission III House of Representatives DPR RI)
  3. Dr. Fadil Zumhana (Junior Attorney General for General Crimes)
  4. Sandrayati Moniaga (Commissioner for the Study and Research of The Indonesian National Human Rights Commission
  5. Ardimanto Adiputro (Vice Director IMPARSIAL -The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor)
  6. Marsya Mutmainah Handayani (Researcher ICEL – Indonesian Center for Environmental Law)

From the perspective of community organizations, Marsya Mutmaihan as ICEL Researcher sees that the government still needs to strengthen the Anti-SLAPP regulations. “The victory of six residents in Bangka Belitung who were convicted under the SLAPP article for fighting for the environment through the decision of the Bangka Belitung High Court sets a good precedent in filling the void in the Anti-SLAPP law in Indonesia. This should be a positive step for the immediate formalization of the Anti-SLAPP Ministerial Regulation Draft. Anti-SLAPP regulations also need to be strengthened in the procedural law, both in the Revised Criminal Code Procedure and Code of Civil Procedure so that SLAPP is not easily used to ensnare public voices, even SLAPP should be put to end as early as possible.”

Taufik Basari from Commission III of the House of Representatives, stated that human rights should be an interesting public discourse, “We should be ashamed that there are still human rights violations. We should ensure that no one rights are violated due to development. When human rights become a public discourse, it will attract political interests in order to become a priority.”

While Prof. Dr. Surya Jaya, Supreme Judge at the Supreme Court, emphasized the unsynchronized understanding of human rights between the community and existing laws, “The most important thing is to improve the handling of reported cases of human rights struggles. We must improve the quality of human resources so that there is a common understanding,” he said.

In this event, KEMITRAAN also launched the Human Rights Defenders Knowledge System (HRDKS) website. This online platform is a forum for learning and exchanging knowledge regarding human rights and human rights defenders in Indonesia, especially in the environmental sector. The site visitors can also monitor cases of criminalization that befell human rights defenders as well as provide support to them. The HRDKS website can be accessed via: https://hrdks.kemitraan.or.id/.