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FARMERS FACE TRIAL AMID ENVIRONMENTAL WORK

Farmers face trial amid environmental work

Syamsul Bahri
37
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Syamsul and Samsir were detained on 10 February 2021 and spent 14 days in prison until they were released on bail by the police on 24 February. In early March, the police handed over the investigation dossier to the Langkat Regency Prosecutor’s Office. The latter had submitted the dossier to the Langkat District Court, which is scheduled to start the trial on 29 March. The prosecutors are expected to read out the indictment on the first hearing. If found guilty under Article 170 (1) of the Criminal Code, they could face up to 5 years and 6 months in prison.

In late 2017, the government granted the Nipah Farmer community the right to manage a 242-hectare land in Kwala Serapuh Village, North Sumatra province, for sustainable use under a social forestry permit. The community has since then been working to rehabilitate mangrove forests in this area. The community is protesting the operation of a palm oil company that owns a plantation on land the community claims the right to manage. 

The accusation filed against Syamsul Bahri and Samsir dates to a case in December 2020 while members of the Nipah Farmer community were working on an environmental rehabilitation project on the land they manage under the social forestry scheme. According to witness testimonies collected by local NGOs, including WALHI North Sumatra, LBH Medan, and Srikandi Lestari, two people arrived at the site on 18 December and took pictures of their activities. 

Syamsul Bahri, the community’s chairman, questioned the two individuals on their intention of visiting the area. Afterwards, one of the individuals walked away and called his friend saying that he was “being beaten up” in a loud voice so that others could hear, before jumping into the river. The Nipah Famer community quickly rescued him with a boat and took him to safety before asking him to clarify the statement he had previously made in the call. The individual then said that he was not being beaten up by any of the community members and his statement was recorded in a video by a member of the community. The man’s friend came to pick him up not long after.

Almost two months later, on 8 February 2021, Syamsul Bahri and Samsir received a letter of summons by the Tanjung Pura Police to appear for questioning on 10 February as suspects regarding allegations brought by one of the men who had filed a report to the police stating that Syamsul and other farmers assaulted him on 18 December 2020. The two were charged under Article 170 (1) of the Criminal Code on group violence. The dubious charges against the pair have raised questions since Syamsul and Samsir had never been questioned as witnesses or asked to comment on the report before. 

Local NGOs who advocate for the case believe the arrest to be based on false accusations against Syamsul Bahri and Samsir and to be a form of criminalization aimed to stifle the community’s work in conserving the mangrove forests and claiming their rights linked to access to land. In a statement to the coalition of NGOs, Langkat Regency Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Edi Suranta Sinulingga denied concerns over criminalization and claimed the police have collected evidence over the assault.

Environmental human rights defenders in Indonesia who work to protect and promote environmental rights and those linked to access to land are increasingly harassed and criminalized when state and economic actors perceive their activities as a hindrance to the implementation of development policies. One of the most notable cases of criminalization occurred in 2017 with the sentencing of environmental activist Heri Budiawan, also known as Budi Pego, to four years in prison for spreading communism in relation to his work to protest gold mining activities in Tumpang Pitu, Banyuwangi, East Java province. 

In 2020, Amnesty International recorded the arrest, attack, and intimidation of at least 202 human rights defenders in Indonesia, including environmental activists who defended their rights to land and a healthy environment. 
 

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FARMERS DETAINED AMID CONSERVATION WORK

Farmers detained amid conservation work

Indonesia Map
4
days left to take action

In late 2017, the government granted the Nipah Farmer community the right to manage a 242-hectare land in Kwala Serapuh Village, North Sumatra province, for sustainable use under a social forestry permit. The community has since then been working to rehabilitate mangrove forests in this area. The community is protesting the operation of a palm oil company that owns a plantation on land the community claims the right to manage. 

The accusation filed against Samsul Bahri and Samsir dates to a case in December 2020 while members of the Nipah Farmer community were working on an environmental rehabilitation project on the land they manage under the social forestry scheme. According to witness testimonies collected by local NGOs, including WALHI North Sumatra, LBH Medan, and Srikandi Lestari, two people arrived at the site on 18 December and took pictures of their activities. 

Samsul Bahri, the community’s chairman, questioned the two individuals on their intention of visiting the area. Afterwards, one of the individuals walked away and called his friend saying that he was “being beaten up” in a loud voice so that others could hear, before jumping into the river. The Nipah Famer community quickly rescued him with a boat and took him to safety before asking him to clarify the statement he had previously made in the call. The individual then said that he was not being beaten up by any of the community members and his statement was recorded in a video by a member of the community. The man’s friend came to pick him up not long after.

Almost two months later, on 8 February 2021, Samsul Bahri and Samsir received a letter of summons by the Tanjung Pura Police to appear for questioning on 10 February as suspects regarding allegations brought by one of the menwho had filed a report to the police stating that Samsul and other farmers assaulted him on 18 December 2020. The two were charged under Article 170 of the Criminal Code on group violence. The dubious charges against the pair have raised questions since Samsul and Samsir had never been questioned as witnesses or asked to comment on the report before. The pair have been detained since 10 February. 

Local NGOs who advocate for the case believe the arrest to be based on false accusations against Samsul Bahri and Samsir and to be a form of criminalization aimed to stifle the community’s work in conserving the mangrove forests and claiming their rights to land. In a statement to the coalition of NGOs, Langkat Regency Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Edi Suranta Sinulingga denied concerns over criminalization and claimed the police have collected evidence over the assault.

Environmental human rights defenders in Indonesia who work to protect and promote environmental rights and those linked to access to land are increasingly harassed and criminalized when state and economic actors perceive their activities as a hindrance to the implementation of development policies. One of the most notable cases of criminalization occurred in 2017 with the sentencing of environmental activist Heri Budiawan, also known as Budi Pego, to four years in prison for spreading communism in relation to his work to protest gold mining activities in Tumpang Pitu, Banyuwangi, East Java province. In 2020, Amnesty International recorded the arrest, attack, and intimidation of at least 202 human rights defenders in Indonesia, including environmental activists who defended their rights to land and a healthy environment. 
 

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Indonesia: two men publicly flogged 77 times for same-sex 'offences'

Two men caned 77 times each in ‘cruel’ punishment in front of 100-strong crowd Aceh is only province of Indonesia where floggings take place, with at least 254 people flogged last year ‘No-one deserves to be brutalised and humiliated in this way’ - Usman Hamid Two men in the city of Banda Aceh in Indonesia’s Aceh province were each flogged 77 times yesterday (28 January) for alleged consensual same-sex relations, said Amnesty International Indonesia. The canings were reportedly carried out in front of a crowd of around 100 onlookers. The two men were arrested in November after local residents

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SEVEN PAPUAN ACTIVISTS RELEASED FROM PRISON

Seven Papuan activists released from prison

Indonesia
0
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Indonesia: Men accused of holding 'gay party' face 15 years in jail

Responding to the arrest of nine men in Jakarta for holding what police described as a “gay party,” Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said: “There is no legal justification for criminalising the behaviour these men are accused of. Such a gathering would pose no threat to anyone. The authorities are being discriminatory and violating the human rights to privacy and family life, freedom of expression, and the freedom of assembly and association. “Raids like these send a terrifying message to LGBTI people. We call on the authorities to release all people arrested in

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Indonesia: Two women whipped 100 times for selling sex online

A member of the Sharia police waits before a public caning in Banda Aceh on October 21, 2019
A member of the Sharia police waits before a public caning in Banda Aceh on October 21, 2019 © CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP/Getty Images

Floggings reportedly took place in front of dozens of onlookers 37 whipping sentences handed down in province of Aceh already this year ‘It’s a punishment that must never be normalised nor tolerated’ - Usman Hamid Two women in the Aceh province of Indonesia were publicly whipped earlier this week after being found guilty of selling sex online. Amnesty International has condemned the floggings as “cruel and inhumane”, and called for an immediate ban on flogging as a form of punishment in the country. The women were subjected to around 100 lashes of the whip in Langsa City in Aceh on Monday

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7 PAPUAN ACTIVISTS JAILED FOR ANTI-RACISM PROTEST

7 Papuan activists jailed for anti-racism protest

Demonstration for Erwiana
0
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Ferry Kombo, Alexander Gobai, Henky Hilapok and Irwanus Uropmabin were arrested between 6 and 11 September 2019 in Jayapura, Papua. They were accused of being masterminds of the 29 August 2019 Jayapura “riot,” because their student union was the only organization that informed the police that there would be a peaceful anti-racism protest in Jayapura. Between 9 and 23 September in Jayapura, the police arrested three KNPB leaders (Agus Kossay, Stevenus Itlay and Assa Asso) and a ULMWP activist who was also a former chairperson of the KNPB (Buchtar Tabuni). They all have been convicted of treason (makar).

The trial against the seven Papuan activists began on 11 February 2020. On 11 June the public prosecutor demanded the prison sentences between 5 to 17 years for the seven PoCs. The lawyers of the defendants have argued that the indictments failed to mention a clear time, place or how the defendants were involved in a criminal offense. However, on 17 June 2020 the Balikpapan District Court in East Kalimantan issued the verdict guilty of makar and the following sentences for the seven POCs: 10 months for Ferry Kombo, Irwanus Uropmabin, Hengky Hilapok and Alexander Gobai, and 11 months in prison for Buchtar Tabuni, Agus Kossay and Steven Itlay.

Article 106 of the Criminal Code authorizes the courts to sentence a person “to life imprisonment or a maximum of twenty years imprisonment for makar” and often used to criminalize the Papuan activists. In addition, Article 110 stipulates that conspiracy to commit makar is punishable as a violation of Article 106. There has been an increase in the imposition of treason (makar) in recent years on at least 44 Papuan activists due to peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

The treason articles in the Criminal Code is still often applied with a definition that is too general and vague so that it no longer concerns the original purpose of the article. So, this article can be arbitrarily used to limit the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association.

The Indonesian authorities have used these criminal code provisions to prosecute dozens of peaceful pro-independence political activists in Papua and Maluku over the last decade. 

Amnesty International does not take any position on the political status of any province or region in Indonesia, or any other state, including calls for independence. However, the organization believes that the right to freedom of expression also includes advocating for independence.
 

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MORE THAN 400 ROHINGYA PEOPLE STRANDED AT SEA

More than 400 Rohingya people stranded at sea

Myanmar Rohingya crisis
0
days left to take action

Since August 2017, more than 740,000 Rohingya have fled their homes in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State after the military unleashed a brutal campaign of violence against them. A UN report has concluded these crimes may also constitute genocide. In the years after the campaign, Rohingya have continued to flee across the border.

For years, the Rohingya have made attempts to reach Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and other countries. Lacking visas, travel documents and subject to strict restrictions on movement that make overland connections nearly impossible, boats are often the only option. 

According to information obtained by Amnesty International, several hundred people are still believed to be at sea. In May 2020, dozens of lives were reportedly lost on a boat the Malaysian authorities turned away. The survivors, allowed to disembark in Bangladesh, were severely malnourished and dehydrated. In the most recent weeks in June, while initially accepting boats at sea, Malaysia and Bangladesh are now refusing to offer assistance to people in need of rescue. Moreover, coastguards have pushed back these vessels. Other countries have not responded.

South and Southeast Asian governments must immediately launch search and rescue operations for Rohingya stranded at sea, bringing food, medicine and allowing safe disembarkation. Authorities must not forcibly push boats back. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic should not be an excuse to block Rohingya from landing safely and seeking asylum.

Governments must also uphold commitments made under regional declarations, including the 2010 ASEAN Declaration on search and rescue operations at sea, the 2016 Bali Declaration, and the outcome of the February 2020 meeting of the Taskforce on the Bali Process, which “emphasized the primacy of saving lives at sea and not endangering the life and safety of persons in responding to irregular maritime migration.”

Despite being a non-State Party to the 1951 Convention, Indonesia plays a key role as being the co-chair of Bali Process with Australia. In 2016, Indonesia also issued a Presidential Regulation No. 125/2016 on the Handling of Foreign Refugees. In addition, Indonesia has a special Task Force on the Handling of Refugees (Satuan Tugas Penanganan Pengungsi dari Luar Negeri) under the Coordinating Ministry of Political, Legal and Security Affairs that is in coordination with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Indonesia.

The international community must also do much more to support Bangladesh and share the responsibility and financial burden of hosting almost a million refugees at a time its economy is already under strain from the pandemic-related global slowdown. Finally, Rohingya refugees are entitled to continue to seek asylum and states must keep borders open to people who continue to flee now or will do so in the future.

 

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Indonesia: mayor's anti-LGBTI raids following Reynhard Sinaga conviction condemned

In recent years there has been a mounting campaign against LGBTI people in Indonesia © Getty Images

Mayor in Depok city demands police raids on LGBTI community in hometown of Manchester serial rapist Move is latest in ‘vicious campaign’ of harassment of LGBTI people in country ‘There can be no justification for these hateful raids’ - Usman Hamid Amnesty International has condemned a mayoral order for raids on the LGBTI community in the hometown of Reynhard Sinaga, the Indonesian student who was sentenced to life imprisonment last week for a series of rapes in Manchester. Last week, Mohammad Idris, the mayor of the city of Depok in West Java, asked municipal police to search rented

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Indonesia: Two people whipped unconscious in 'vicious' public punishments

Responding to reports that a woman and a man lost consciousness as they were whipped during separate public punishments by authorities in Aceh, Indonesia today, Usman Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director, said: “The fact that two people were beaten unconscious today, in two separate incidents, is a damning indictment of the authorities who let his happen on their watch. These punishments are cruel, inhumane and degrading, and amount to torture. “These whippings are a shameful and vicious public spectacle. No-one deserves to face this unspeakable cruelty. The authorities

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