Responding to the passage of a new sweeping Criminal Code by the Indonesian House of Representatives that among other things prevents sex outside marriage, restricts freedom of assembly, and bars criticism of the president, Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said:
“What we’re witnessing is a significant blow to Indonesia’s hard-won progress in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms over more than two decades. The fact that the Indonesian government and the House of Representatives agreed to pass a penal code that effectively stamps out many human rights is appalling.”
“This contentious and overreaching new Criminal Code will only do more harm to an already shrinking civic space in Indonesia. The reinstatement of provisions banning insults to the president and vice president, the sitting government as well as state institutions will further entrench obstacles to freedom of speech while criminalizing legitimate and peaceful dissent. The ban on unsanctioned public demonstrations could unduly restrict the right to peaceful assembly.”
“The new Criminal Code practically gives those in power authority to suppress opinions that they don’t like through selective enforcement. This can cement a climate of fear that stifles peaceful criticism and freedom of assembly.”
“Outlawing sex outside marriage is a violation to the right to privacy protected under international law. Such ‘morality’ provisions could even potentially be misused to criminalize victims of sexual assault or to target members of the LGBTI community. Consensual sexual relationships should not be treated as a criminal offence or a violation of ‘morality’.”
“This Criminal Code should have never been passed in the first place and is a dramatic rollback of human rights progress in Indonesia. Instead of destroying hard-won rights victories, the Indonesian government and the House of Representatives should live up to their human rights commitments for the benefit of all Indonesians.”
On 6 December 2022, Indonesia’s House of Representatives passed into law the new Criminal Code, a revision to the Dutch colonial-era code that had remained largely unchanged since 1908.
The law was passed amid widespread public criticism over provisions that could potentially be misused and misinterpreted to unduly restrict human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, privacy, as well as sexual reproductive rights.
The new Code reinstates articles banning insults to the President and Vice President – which the Constitutional Court annulled in 2006 – both directly and through audiovisual or digital means, punishable by up to 3.5 years and 4.5 years in jail, respectively.
It includes articles that criminalize insults to legitimate government and state institutions, and also outlaws unsanctioned public demonstrations deemed to be disturbing public order. These broad provisions could be misused to suppress legitimate criticism and peaceful assembly.
The law maintained imprisonment as a penalty for defamation and religious blasphemy, while retaining treason provisions that could further curtail the rights to freedom of opinion and expression as well as freedom of religion or belief.
The Code makes sex outside marriage punishable by one year in jail and cohabitation outside marriage by six months in jail. It also criminalizes the promotion of contraception while maintaining abortion as a crime.
Moreover, new provisions concerning genocide and crimes against humanity in the Criminal Code that eliminate retroactive principles run contrary to international human rights law and could potentially deny victims of past gross human rights violations access to justice, truth, and redress.