Authorities repeatedly used excessive force to break up protests, including by local communities protesting against mining operations. The crackdown on political dissent in Papua and West Papua provinces continued. Dozens of Indigenous Papuans were arrested and some faced charges carrying lengthy prison terms. Freedom of expression continued to be curtailed as human rights defenders, journalists and others were subjected to physical and online attacks, and were arrested and prosecuted under repressive laws. A new law was adopted criminalizing various crimes related to sexual violence, but rape victims were denied effective access to justice. The judicial punishment of flogging was used in Aceh province. Security forces committed unlawful killings, including in Papua and West Papua, largely with impunity.
In June, parliament passed legislation creating three new provinces that divided the existing provinces of Papua and West Papua into smaller administrative areas. The government said that this would accelerate development and improve public service delivery, but fears that it would lead to an increased military presence sparked renewed protests in a region where there was already a long-standing, pro-independence movement.
In December, parliament adopted a new criminal code that violated rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, privacy and sexual and reproductive rights standards, and discriminated against women, LGBTI people and minorities. The new law, that will supersede the previous criminal code over a three-year period, reinstated prison sentences for insulting the president, vice president, the government and other state institutions and banned unauthorized demonstrations. It also made consensual sexual relations outside marriage a criminal offence, thereby permitting state intrusion into private decisions of individuals and families and could potentially be misused to criminalize victims of sexual assault or target members of the LGBTI community.
Freedom of association and assembly
Authorities arrested, detained and used excessive force against protesters, including those defending land rights and the environment. On 8 February, security forces assaulted people in Wadas village, Central Java province, who were protesting against the environmental and social impacts of planned rock quarrying. The arrival of hundreds of military and police officers in the village to secure land for the quarry led to clashes with local residents. Sixty-seven people were arrested during the confrontation but released without charge. The police refuted claims that excessive force was used against protesters.
On 12 February, a 21-year-old man, Erfaldi, was shot dead during a protest against a gold-mining operation in Parigi Moutong Regency, Central Sulawesi province. Members of the Police Mobile Brigade reportedly used tear gas and fired live ammunition to disperse hundreds of people who were blocking the Trans-Sulawesi highway after the provincial governor failed to attend a meeting to discuss community concerns about the impact of the mine on local livelihoods.1 The trial of a police officer charged with Erfaldi’s death was ongoing at year’s end.
Papua and West Papua
Protests in Papua and West Papua provinces were met with disproportionate force and dozens of protesters were arrested during the year. On 10 May, police arrested seven political activists following a protest in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, against the planned division of Papua and West Papua provinces. All were released without charge. The same day, police kicked and used rubber batons and wooden clubs to beat protesters as they prepared to march to the district parliament in the town of Abepura, Papua province. One student who had been negotiating with the police had a gun held against his head and was beaten until he lost consciousness. At least 36 other protesters also sustained injuries.2
In November, police forcibly broke up a vigil at Jayapura University of Technology and Science to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the abduction and killing of pro-independence leader Theys Eluay. According to reports, police fired tear gas to disperse the students who had raised the Morning Star flag – a symbol of Papuan independence. Fifteen people were arrested, three of whom were subsequently charged with treason and six with offences relating to violence against police officers. The three students charged with treason remained in detention at year’s end, while the others were released on bail.
Freedom of expression
The Electronic Information and Transaction (EIT) law and other restrictive laws were used to prosecute and intimidate human rights defenders, activists, journalists, academics and others. Police launched investigations under the EIT law into three of the 67 people arrested in Wadas village on 8 February in connection with sharing videos on social media of the day’s events. None were charged, but their mobile phones were confiscated. Subsequently, the official Twitter accounts of the Wadas anti-mining protest and the personal accounts of at least seven activists involved in the protests were suspended.3
On 6 April, the Ciamis District Court in West Java sentenced Muhammad Kosman to 10 years’ imprisonment for “spreading false news”. He was arrested in August 2021 under EIT law provisions on “advocacy of hatred” and law No. 1/1946 on misinformation after uploading a video on YouTube in which he allegedly insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.4
In May, police launched a criminal investigation into protests by lecturers and other staff at a university in West Java province following a complaint of defamation under the EIT law against them by a former dean of the law faculty. The complaint related to their criticism of faculty policies and practices and calls for the dismissal of the dean. At least 14 lecturers and other staff members involved in the protests were questioned, but no one had been charged by year’s end.
In March, police formally charged Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti with defamation under the EIT law. The two human rights activists were accused in 2021 of “spreading false information” in connection with a YouTube video in which they reported allegations that a minister and members of the military were involved in the mining industry in Papua. The two faced up to four years in prison if convicted.
At least 53 cases of physical assault, digital and other attacks targeting at least 63 journalists or media institutions were reported during the year. According to media reports, police slapped and choked a journalist who was covering a student demonstration in Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi province, in April. The journalist’s mobile phone was seized and videos he had taken of police beating a demonstrator were deleted against his will.
Between 23 and 30 September the devices and social media accounts of at least 38 journalists and other media workers from the online media outlet Narasi were the targets of a coordinated hacking attack.5 At the same time, Narasi’s website was temporarily disabled following a cyberattack. Narasi is known for its coverage of corruption, crimes involving public officials and other controversial issues.
Human rights defenders
At least 35 cases of physical and digital attacks targeting 150 human rights defenders or organizations were reported during the year. There were concerns that an arson attack at the premises of the Papua Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua) in Jayapura on 9 May, in which a motorbike was destroyed, was related to the NGO’s work in defence of human rights in Papua. LBH Papua filed a report with the police but those responsible were not identified.
Sexual and gender-based violence
On 12 April, the House of Representatives adopted the Sexual Violence Crime Bill into law. The law, first proposed by women’s rights activists in 2012, criminalized nine forms of sexual violence including, for the first time, forced marriage and physical, non-physical and cyber sexual harassment.
On 24 October, the independent news website Konde.co was temporarily disabled by a digital attack hours after publishing a report about the failure of the authorities to investigate the rape of a woman in 2019, allegedly involving employees of the Ministry of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises. According to the report the survivor was forced to marry one of the alleged perpetrators, apparently as a form of “restorative justice”, which resulted in police investigations being halted and the release of all suspects in the case.6 Konde.co, which reports on women’s issues and on marginalized groups, had experienced previous cyberattacks for its reporting.
Torture and other ill-treatment
At least 168 people were subjected to flogging in Aceh, the only Indonesian province to implement this form of punishment. In January, a woman collapsed twice while being flogged 100 times for sexual relations outside marriage. Her male partner received 15 lashes. Three other men received 100 lashes each on the same day for adultery or “facilitating adultery”.7
Thirty-six incidents of suspected unlawful killings by security forces, involving 41 victims, were recorded during the year. Five of these incidents, involving nine victims, took place in Papua province, bringing the total number of victims of suspected unlawful killings in Papua and West Papua since February 2018 to 105.
Papua and West Papua
On 15 March, police shot dead two people and injured three others when they opened fire on protesters in Yahukimo Regency who were demonstrating against the division of Papua and West Papua.
Police detained 10 people, including six members of the Indonesian military, in connection with the killing and dismemberment of four Papuan men in Mimika Regency in August. An Indonesian Army Strategic Reserve commander told journalists that these constituted murders as a criminal matter, but not human rights violations.8 On 29 August, security forces detained and tortured three men in Bade village, Mappi Regency, resulting in the death of Bruno Kimko and serious injury to the two others.9 Eighteen members of Yonif Raider 600/Modang military unit were arrested but had not been charged by year’s end.
In March, UN experts raised concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in Papua and West Papua provinces and called for full and independent investigations, including into unlawful killings.
On 8 December, the Human Rights Court in Makassar, South Sulawesi province, acquitted a former military commander of the unlawful killing of four Papuan high school students in Paniai Regency in 2014. The trial was marred by concerns about its credibility, including because only one suspect was charged in the case and all of the witnesses except two were former members of the security forces. Previous investigations by Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission, known as Komnas HAM, found that members of the XVII/Cenderawasih military unit had opened fire on a crowd of Indigenous Papuans who were protesting against the alleged beating of Papuan children by military personnel, resulting in the deaths of four boys and injuries to 21 others. According to Komnas HAM, the incident constituted a systematic and widespread attack against civilians.
Excessive use of force
Two separate investigations found that excessive use of force by police against football supporters at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, on 1 October was the primary cause of a disaster that left 135 dead and another 433 injured. A fact-finding team established by the president and parallel investigations by Komnas HAM found that the use of tear gas had led to panic and a subsequent stampede in which supporters were crushed to death. According to Komnas HAM, police fired a total of 45 tear gas canisters into the crowd.10 Seven people, including three police officers and one member of the Indonesian army, were named as suspects and faced criminal charges.
Failure to tackle climate crisis
Indonesia updated its NDC in September, bringing forward its target for reaching net zero by 10 years to 2060 and improving its unconditional target from 29% to 32% below its “business-as-usual” (BAU) scenario, and its conditional target from 41% to 43% below BAU. Both targets have been rated “critically insufficient” by independent analysts, and Indonesia’s over-reliance on coal and inadequate policies to support its replacement with renewables was criticized.
- “Indonesia: Investigate alleged shooting towards protester in Parigi Moutong, Central Sulawesi”, 13 February (Indonesian only)
- Indonesia: Silencing voices, suppressing criticism: The decline in Indonesia’s civil liberties, 7 October
- “Indonesia: Investigate attacks and intimidation against Wadas residents and activists”, 16 February (Indonesian only)
- “Indonesia: Stop criminalizing the right to freedom of expression”, 14 April
- “Indonesia: Attacks against Narasi journalists are a form of silencing”, 26 September (Indonesian only)
- “Indonesia: KKJ denounces efforts to silence press freedom through digital attacks against Konde.co”, 25 October (Indonesian only)
- “Indonesia: Woman collapses twice while publicly flogged 100 times for adultery in Aceh”, 27 January
- “Indonesia: Mutilation case comments show state’s knee-jerk response to allegations of violence involving security forces in Papua”, 16 September
- “Indonesia: Open Letter to Commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces to investigate alleged abuse and unlawful killings by military officers”, 5 September (Indonesian only)
- “Indonesia: Security forces must be held accountable for human rights violations of the Kanjuruhan tragedy”, 3 November (Indonesian only)