The Indonesian authorities must ensure full respect for the human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly ahead of the announcement of the official general election results scheduled for 22 May, Amnesty International said today.
“The authorities in Indonesia must let people demonstrate freely and peacefully. Security forces must refrain from using unnecessary or excessive force or intimidating demonstrators,” said Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director Usman Hamid.
Prior to the announcement by the Election Commission (KPU) tomorrow, civil society organizations and prominent opposition political activists have announced plans to stage mass protests in Jakarta on 22 May, saying they would reject the 17th April presidential election results.
On Sunday 19 May, media reported that police were intimidating groups travelling on busses to Jakarta, instructing them to turn back and not join the rally.
“Preventing people from joining a peaceful protest is a violation of their human rights. Everyone has the right to join others and express their thoughts peacefully,” Usman Hamid added.
Amnesty International Indonesia also urges the Indonesian government not to involve the military in the handling of public assemblies, since they are neither trained nor equipped to handle such situations which are completely alien to their mandate and fighting mission. If – exceptionally – they are to be deployed they must be fully trained and equipped to fulfil this task in compliance with international human rights law and standards, especially the “protect life” principle, be subject to the same rules as regular police and, and should be placed under the oversight/command of a civilian authority.
The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Basic Principles) which were adopted domestically in Indonesia by a Chief of National Police’s Regulation (Perkap No.1/2009) clearly establish that law enforcement officials can use force only if non-violent means are unlikely to be effective. In the use of force, law enforcement officials must seek to minimize harm and injury. The Basic Principles require that in the dispersal of peaceful assemblies which are unlawful under domestic legislation law enforcement officials must exercise utmost restraint.
In any case, priority must be given to voluntary dispersal without the use of force, and if force has to be used, it needs to be necessary and proportionate to the level of resistance by the demonstrators; force that is likely to cause harm should be directed only at those individuals who are engaged in violence, and force with indiscriminate effects can only be justified in cases of widespread violence against persons, when it is no longer possible to contain the violence by dealing only with the individuals engaged in violence.