Constitutional Court’s ruling could lead to more repression of peaceful protesters

Responding to the decision of Indonesia’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday to reject petitions calling for it to review the makar (orrebellion”) provisions in the Criminal Code, which are frequently used to prosecute and imprison peaceful political activists, Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director Usman Hamid said:

“This disappointing decision clearly shows that the Court does not have the will to stand up against repression by law enforcement bodies. Police and other institutions are increasingly using the draconian articles on makar to criminalize people who are simply peacefully expressing their opinions.”

“The court has effectively closed its eyes to looked away from the repression of peaceful protesters that has taken place for decades in Indonesia. Especially in Papua and Maluku people are frequently arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned, in some cases for many years through makar charges.

“Today’s verdict could be used by law enforcement bodies to carry out more repression of peaceful political activists in the future, as they can now claim that their actions are backed by the Constitutional Court.”

Background

Makar or “rebellion” provisions in Articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code (crimes against the security of the state) are still used to criminalize freedom of expression in Maluku and Papua, two regions where there is a history of pro-independence movements.

The petitions for judicial review of the makar articles were submitted in 2017 by several individuals and organisations from Papua. The Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of the makar articles and claiming they were important for Indonesia’s security and stability.

In past years, Amnesty International has documented hundreds of convictions of peaceful activists under the makar provisions. To date, there are still at least 20 people behind bars convicted for or charged under makar provisions. Some of these are serving sentences that are as long as 20 years, for attending, organizing or participating in peaceful political protests or other activities, or possessing, raising or waving the prohibited pro-independence flags of Papua and Maluku. Amnesty International considers all of them as prisoners of conscience (PoC), imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has consistently expressed concerns about provisions in the Criminal Code relating to national security. According to the WGAD “[m]ost of these provisions are, especially inasmuch as the intentional element of the crime is concerned, drafted in such general and vague terms that they can be used arbitrarily to restrict the freedoms of opinion, expression, assembly and association”. The WGAD has also stated that “these provisions carry grave risks of arbitrary detentions, as long as they have not been abrogated or their content amended to make them compatible with international standards guaranteeing the freedoms of opinion and expression”.

X