Indonesia: Developments of Policies around the Protection of HRDs

Although the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs or defenders) in Indonesia remains as dire as the policies in place to protect them, many processes are ongoing that may offer a way to improvement. This piece presents a summary of developments surrounding the protection of human rights defenders within the Indonesian political and legal framework.

Several state institutions are becoming increasingly aware of the situation of HRDs, such as the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), the National Commission Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK), the Ombudsman, and the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI). Several protection policies and mechanisms include the mention of the protection of human rights defenders, although their capacity to effectively deliver towards this goal is rather low.

Development of policies and legal provisions

In the past years, a number of policies aimed at improving the protection of HRDs have been developed. In 2015, Komnas HAM (National Human Rights Commission) adopted Regulation Number 5 of 2015 (Perkomnas HAM) concerning Procedures for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. The purpose of this regulation is to provide guidelines for the protection of HRDs who are threatened or are vulnerable due to their activities (Chapter II, Article 2). Within this policy, a Special Rapporteur for HRDs was created within Komnas HAM. Since 2017, however, with the appointment of a new Komnas HAM Commissioner, the HRD Special Rapporteur system has been put into question due to lack of clarity regarding its funding and recruitment.

There are a number of specific legal provisions that consider the protection of human rights defenders by sector and profession: journalists, lawyers, witnesses and whistleblowers of corruption cases, amongst others, are legally protected against retaliation and prosecution in specific laws by sector. Article 66 of the Environmental Protection and Management Law (PPLH) No. 32/2009 mentions states that: “everyone who fights for the right to a good and healthy environment shall not be prosecuted based on criminal and civil lawsuits.” Women HRDs are also explicitly mentioned in article 8 of the Presidential Decree No. 18 of 2014, concerning the Protection and Empowerment of Women and Children in Social Conflict.

Lastly, an ongoing Draft Law for Indigenous People Protection was proposed by civil society in February 2021 (Chapter XII of Community Participation, article 45 paragraph 2), with the aim to ensure legal protection linked to the right of participation: “anyone who carries out their participation as referred to in paragraph (1) cannot be prosecuted criminally or civilly sued”. The draft law is still under debate.

While these regulations should provide a certain degree of legal protection, in practice their implementation is very limited, with a very poor impact on effective protection of HRDs.

Institutions and mechanisms

There are a number of mechanisms that have the potential to improve the protection of HRDs.  For instance, the Sub-Commission for Recovery and Remedy at Komnas Perempuan (National Commission Violence against Women) advocates for the protection of HRDs, and monitors their situation. Another example in progress is the Standard of Norms and Regulations (SNP) Draft for Human Rights Defenders, currently being drafted by Komnas HAM. This SNP will have implications on who will be considered as a human rights defender, which will certainly have an impact on protection issues.

Coordination between different institutions is also relevant: Memorandums of Understanding exist between Komnas HAM and the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPS); or between the Press Council and National Police regarding the protection of journalists.

Protection International’s promotion of public policies in Indonesia

Protection International Indonesia engages in active advocacy for the protection of HRDs in Indonesia, together with other local NGOs. We collaborate and provide advice to several State institutions with a stake in HRD protection, notably: the National Human Right Commission (Komnas HAM), the National Commission of Anti-Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK), the Ombudsman, and the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI).

PI Indonesia also has contributed with advice and technical support for the development and drafting of several national policies in Indonesia. Some of the policy processes PI has contributed to are:  the Policy Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry as a derivative of the operationalization of Article 66 of the Environmental Law; the National Human Rights Regulation (Perkomnas HAM);  the Standard of Norms and Regulations (SNP) Draft for Human Rights Defenders;  the Bill on the Protection of Indigenous Peoples, proposing protection provisions for defenders of indigenous peoples;  or the creation of a National Preventive mechanism on torture.

Links of interest:

Indonesian legal framework:

  • Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia (last amended 2002).
    • Indonesia Republic Constitution Article 28 C paragraph (2) recognizes the right to the struggle for rights : “Every person shall have the right to improve him/herself through collective struggle for his/her rights to develop his/her society, nation and state” 
  • Human Rights Law Number 39/1999.
  • Law No. 26/2000 creating an ad hoc Human Rights Court has a a Chapter V on protection of Victims and Witnessess. Its Article 34 states that
    (1).      Every victim of and witness to a gross violation of human rights has the right to physical      and mental protection from threats, harassment, terror, and violence by any party whosoever.
    (2).    Protection as referred in clause is an obligatory duty of the law enforcement and a security apparatus provided free of charge.
    (3). Provisions on procedures for protecting witnesses shall be further governed in a Government Regulation.

This information has been updated on December 3rd, 2021.