Indonesia: Draft law of criminal code negatively impacts fundamental freedoms

Statement in Indonesian

Joint statement: Hold public consultations on the revised draft of the Criminal Code and repeal restrictive provisions

We, the undersigned organizations, are alarmed by provisions in the draft amendments of the Indonesian Criminal Code, recently made public, that will negatively impact civic space and fundamental freedoms in the country. We call for these provisions to be repealed and for the Indonesian government and parliament to conduct public consultations before adopting the draft amendments.

On 6 July 2022, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights handed over the finalized draft of the amendment of the Criminal Code to the parliament for further discussions. Civil society groups had raised concerns since 2019 around the inaccessibility of the draft amendments to the public, rendering meaningful participation in the decision-making process impossible.

The fact that the draft has been made available only recently shows the government’s lack of commitment to uphold transparency and inclusivity for all stakeholders, including civil society, to engage and voice their concerns.  Our organizations believe that this clearly undermines fundamental democratic principles that Indonesia has always claimed to the world it stands for.

In the recent draft, it is apparent that provisions that will undermine civic space still exist. These include Articles 218 and 219 (defamation and insults against the President and Vice President), Articles 240 and 241 (defamation and insults against the government), as well as Article 351 and 352 (defamation and insults against public authorities and State institutions) which will carry the punishment of imprisonment for committing such offenses.

All these provisions are vaguely and broadly drafted, giving the government and its authorities unfettered discretion that will significantly curb freedom of speech and expression in the country. This will substantially create a chilling effect on those exercising their rights while simultaneously creating a culture of self-censor and a climate of fear.

The draft also contains provisions (Article 256) that will criminalize individuals who organize peaceful protests without notification with fines and up to six months imprisonment. The provision will create further barriers to peaceful demonstrators who have already been facing harassment and violence by state authorities in numerous instances documented by CIVICUS.

Civil society groups in Indonesia have been advocating for the repeal of such provisions from the current draft since 2019, without success, as the government has remained adamant to push them through. If parliament adopts the current draft, this will be considered a significant breach of Indonesia’s human rights obligations, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Indonesia is a party. The Covenant recognizes that limitation of fundamental freedoms should only be done when strictly necessary and in a proportionate manner. Such vague and overbroad provisions are clearly not consistent with the ICCPR.

We note that during the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) cycle for Indonesia in 2017, the recommendation to repeal or amend and end prosecutions of problematic articles in the Criminal Code has been conveyed several times by many countries. Yet to date, these recommendations are still far from full implementation, given that the government preserved the emblematic articles instead. Given the upcoming review session of Indonesia, which coincided with Indonesia’s Chairship to the G20 Summit, we urge the government to meaningfully implement those recommendations to ensure civic spaces are preserved without further harm to those who are exercising their fundamental freedoms.

Our organizations call on the government to repeal all the problematic provisions from the draft amendment of the Criminal Code, provide adequate time for civil society and other stakeholders to review and provide feedback on it before adoption and ensure the law is in line with Indonesia’s human rights obligations. Adopting the draft as it currently is will only accelerate the democratic backsliding being witnessed in the country.

Signatories:

  1. AccessNow
  2. ALTSEAN-Burma
  3. Amnesty International Indonesia
  4. ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, legally registered as Southeast Asia Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression Caucus (ASC), Inc
  5. Asia Democracy Network
  6. Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR)
  7. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  8. Association for Civil Rights in Israel
  9. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  10. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  11. Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)
  12. Franciscans International
  13. Free Expression Myanmar
  14. Human Rights Law Centre
  15. Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
  16. Karapatan Alliance Philippines
  17. Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)
  18. Manushya Foundation
  19. Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet)
  20. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  21. The Legal Resources Centre
  22. The William Gomes Podcast, United Kingdom
  23. Workers Hub For Change (WH4C)
  24. Yayasan Perlindungan Insani Indonesia
  25. Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI)

Civic space in Indonesia is rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor