Freedom in the World
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
The reformist credentials of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his Democratic Party suffered in 2011, as the party treasurer was arrested on corruption charges and several other high-ranking party members faced similar accusations. Also during the year, deadly communal violence erupted between Muslims and Christians, and members of the Ahmadi religious minority faced increasing harassment, including deadly attacks, with perpetrators enjoying relative impunity. Terrorist bombings struck places of worship as well as public figures known to oppose Islamic extremism, though one prominent terrorism suspect was extradited from Pakistan, and a longtime extremist leader was sentenced to prison in June. Separately, in October, security forces opened fire to disperse an assembly of Papuan separatist leaders.
Indonesia declared independence from its Dutch colonial rulers in 1945, though the Netherlands did not recognize its sovereignty until 1949. The republic’s first president, Sukarno, assumed authoritarian powers in 1957. The army, led by General Suharto, crushed an apparent Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) coup attempt in 1965. Mass acts of violence followed, ostensibly against suspected PKI members, resulting in an estimated 500,000 deaths. With military backing, Suharto formally became president in 1968.
Suharto’s regime created Golkar, a progovernment party based on bureaucratic and military interests, and embarked on a development program that helped the economy grow by an annual average of 7 percent for three decades. By the 1990s, Suharto’s children and cronies were the major beneficiaries of state privatization schemes and in many cases ran business monopolies with little oversight. Soaring inflation and unemployment following the Asian financial crisis of 1997 prompted urban riots in 1998, and Suharto was forced to resign. He was succeeded by then vice president B. J. Habibie, who removed legal constraints on the press, labor unions, and political parties. The province of East Timor voted to separate from Indonesia in a 1999 referendum and gained independence in 2002.
Also in 1999, Indonesia held its first free legislative elections since 1955. The Indonesian Democratic Party–Struggle (PDI-P), led by Sukarno’s daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, won the largest number of seats, followed by Golkar. The People’s Consultative Assembly, made up of elected lawmakers and appointed officials, chose Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid as president and Megawati as vice president that year, but Megawati rose to the presidency in 2001 after Wahid was impeached over corruption allegations. Support for the PDI-P dropped in the 2004 legislative elections, and Golkar once again became the largest party. Later that year, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) of the new Democratic Party and his running mate, Jusuf Kalla of Golkar, won the presidency and vice presidency in the country’s first direct presidential election.
The Democratic Party won the April 2009 parliamentary elections, raising its share of seats to 148, from 55 in 2004. Golkar garnered 106 seats, and the PDI-P took 94. Religious parties generally fared poorly, though the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), with its strong anticorruption platform, captured 57 seats. SBY easily secured a second five-year term in the July presidential election, defeating Megawati and Kalla with 61 percent of the vote in the first round. SBY’s new running mate, former central bank governor Boediono, became vice president.
Public awareness of the extent of corruption in the legal system and attempts to weaken anticorruption efforts grew in 2010, and new corruption allegations against members of the Democratic Party continued to undermine SBY’s reformist credentials during 2011. In August, party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin was extradited from Colombia after he fled the country in May, having been accused of masterminding extensive graft surrounding preparations for the 2012 Southeast Asian Games in South Sumatra. Nazaruddin was formally charged with corruption in December. He had made frequent public statements accusing other senior officials of corruption, including Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum, Democratic lawmaker Angelina Sondakh, and members of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) itself, though they were later cleared of any ethics violations. Two other officials received prison sentences of up to two and a half years in September—and suspended Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry secretary Wafid Muharram received a three-year sentence in December—for paying bribes related to the case.
Religious violence continued in 2011 with a deadly February attack on an Ahmadi community in Cikeusik, West Java. Twelve men were sentenced to between three and six months jail for a collection of minor offenses, but none were charged for the killing of three Ahmadis during the assault. In a widely decried ruling, one Ahmadi victim was sentenced to six months in jail for defying a police order to leave the area during the incident. Three police officers were named as suspects for allegedly failing to protect civilians; their cases had not advanced by year’s end. Separately, communal clashes reemerged in Ambon in September, after false rumors were circulated via text message that a Muslim man had been tortured and killed by Christians. The claims led to three days of violence that damaged over 200 buildings and left seven people dead, 65 injured, and 4,000 displaced. Past violence between the two communities in Ambon had peaked in 1999 and 2000. The Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace recorded a total of 299 violations of religious rights and acts of violence in the name of religion in 2011, 105 of which were committed by state actors including the military, police, and government officials.
There were a number of terrorist incidents during the year, including small or thwarted bomb attacks that targeted churches and public figures known for their outspoken opposition to Islamic hard-liners. In June, radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir was found guilty of supporting a terrorist training camp in Aceh and sentenced to 15 years in prison; the sentence was reduced to nine years on appeal in October. Umar Patek, a suspect in the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 102 people, was extradited to Indonesia in October after being captured in Pakistan.
In the eastern region of Papua, where the central government’s exploitation of natural resources has stirred resentment and separatist sentiment, members of the security forces continued to enjoy relative impunity for abuses against civilians. Three soldiers caught on video torturing two Papuan men were sentenced to between eight and 10 months in jail for “disobedience” in January, and in August three soldiers involved in the killing of a Papuan priest were sentenced to between seven and 15 months for “insubordination.” In October, police opened fire on participants in a proindependence Papuan People’s Congress and arrested 300 people. Some 96 people were reportedly assaulted by security personnel, and six were found dead in the aftermath. All but six detainees were released, and five were on trial for treason at the end of the year. In November, eight security officers were given written warnings for their conduct during the incident.
Corruption has undermined the central government’s efforts to improve economic conditions in Papua. In 2011, the Supreme Audit Agency reported the misuse of $2.2 billion in special autonomy funds by the Papuan government, even as the central government increased the 2011 budget for Papua and West Papua by 23 percent. Special autonomy status had been introduced in 2001 to undercut separatist agitation and a low-grade insurgency dating to the early 1950s. It provided for increased economic but not political autonomy. Separately, in August, all 44 members of the West Papua provincial legislature were named as corruption suspects.
Indonesia is an electoral democracy. In 2004, for the first time, Indonesians directly elected their president and all members of the House of Representatives (DPR), as well as members of a new legislative body, the House of Regional Representatives (DPD). Previously, presidents had been elected by the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), then made up of elected lawmakers and appointed officials. The MPR now performs tasks involving the swearing in and dismissal of presidents and the amendment of the constitution, and consists of elected DPR and DPD members. The DPR, with 560 seats, is the main parliamentary chamber. The 132-member DPD is responsible for proposing and monitoring laws related to regional autonomy. Presidents and vice presidents can serve up to two five-year terms, and all legislators also serve five-year terms.
Parties or coalitions must attain 25 percent of the popular vote or 20 percent of the seats in the DPR to nominate candidates for president. Voters for the DPR can select either a party list or an individual candidate, but candidates are seated based on the number of direct votes they receive. The changes, introduced in 2008, were designed to increase lawmakers’ accountability to voters and reduce the power of party bosses. The 2009 elections yielded a significant turnover in the DPR’s membership, with approximately 75 percent of the chamber consisting of new lawmakers. Several parties protested against the revised Law on Political Parties passed in 2010, charging that it was biased against smaller parties. In September 2011, the parliament revised the Law on Election Organization, removing a mandatory five-year waiting period between resignation from one’s political party and application to serve on the General Elections Commission. Critics of the change said it could lead to conflicts of interest.
Staggered, direct elections for regional leaders began in 2005 and have generally been considered free and fair. Independent candidates were allowed to contest local elections for the first time in 2008, although Aceh’s 2006 governance law had already allowed independent candidates there as part of an effort to cement a 2005 peace agreement with the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) militant group by integrating former GAM members into the political process.
Corruption remains endemic, including in the parliament and other key institutions. Indonesia was ranked 100 out of 183 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index. The KPK’s success in a series of high-profile cases has raised public expectations that acts of corruption, even by senior officials, will be punished. In March 2011, former chief detective Susno Duadji was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for graft and embezzlement. After being implicated, he had made corruption allegations against a number of high-ranking police officers and government officials. In another major case in June, the last of 28 elected officials and party members were sentenced for receiving bribes linked to the election of Miranda Goeltom as deputy governor of the central bank. In December, Nunun Nurbeati, the wife of a PKS member of parliament, was extradited from Thailand after being accused of distributing bribes to lawmakers in the same case. A separate case against former justice minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra over a $46 million embezzlement involving the ministry’s website was ongoing at the end of 2011.
Critics have accused entrenched elites of attempting to weaken anticorruption bodies, citing an alleged conspiracy against the KPK that emerged in 2009, as well as a 2009 anticorruption law that diluted the authority and independence of both the KPK and the Anticorruption Court (Tipikor), where cases brought by the KPK are tried. The 2009 law decentralized anticorruption efforts, allowing the opening of regional corruption courts. Seven have since been opened, and the KPK lost its first case ever in the Bandung regional court in October 2011. Tipikor had been established partly to counteract the acquittals commonly issued in regular courts. Even those who are convicted often receive light sentences or benefit from mass pardons on certain holidays.
The alleged conspiracy against the KPK highlighted pervasive corruption in the legal system. A wiretap recording indicated that extortion charges against two deputy commissioners in 2009 were fabricated by elements in the national police and attorney general’s office to discredit the anticorruption body. However, the Supreme Court in 2010 rejected an initial attempt by prosecutors to drop the charges against the commissioners, and the case was not put to rest until January 2011, when the attorney general’s office formally invoked its authority to set the charges aside in the public interest. Separately, in April 2011, the Judicial Commission announced that district court judges who in 2010 convicted former KPK chairman Antasari Azhar of planning the murder of a businessman may have overlooked important evidence, and that high court and Supreme Court judges may have done the same on appeal.
Indonesia is home to a vibrant and diverse media environment, though press freedom remains hampered by a number of legal and regulatory restrictions. Strict but unevenly enforced licensing rules mean that thousands of television and radio stations operate illegally. Foreign journalists are not authorized to travel to the restive provinces of Papua and West Papua without special permission. Reporters often practice self-censorship to avoid running afoul of civil and criminal libel laws. In addition to legal obstacles, reporters sometimes face violence and intimidation, which in many cases goes unpunished. In January 2011, the police ruled that the December 2010 death of Pelangi Weekly editor Alfrets Mirulewan in Maluku had been a homicide; several suspects were arrested, and the case was ongoing at year’s end. In East Java in May, four journalists were beaten by police while reporting on a Falun Gong march. In December, a mob destroyed the home of journalist Dance Henukh, resulting in the death of his child. The mob was allegedly incited by a local official whom Henukh was investigating in a corruption case. The Alliance of Independent Journalists documented approximately 49 cases of violence against journalists in 2011, while the Legal Aid Foundation for the Press reported 96 acts of violence against members of the media, with approximately 25 percent committed by police or the armed forces.
Freedom of expression is generally upheld. However, in December 2011 over 60 “punks” were rounded up by police in Aceh for supposedly “insulting Islam.” They were then subjected to “reeducation,” which included the forcible shaving of their punk-rock hairstyles and a traditional cleansing ceremony. Censorship and self-censorship of books and films is fairly common. In August 2011, after pressure from the extremist Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a television network decided not to air a film promoting religious tolerance.
The 2008 Law on Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) extended libel and other restrictions to the internet and online media, criminalizing the distribution or accessibility of information or documents that are “contrary to the moral norms of Indonesia” or related to gambling, blackmail, or defamation. In July 2011, the Supreme Court found Prita Mulyasari guilty of defamation under the ITE law and imposed a six-month suspended jail sentence. She was prosecuted for complaining to friends via e-mail about a hospital where she had been a patient. In 2010 the Supreme Court had overturned a 2009 civil defamation ruling against her, and she had initially been acquitted in the parallel criminal case.
Indonesia officially recognizes Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Members of unrecognized religions have difficulty obtaining national identity cards. Atheism is not accepted, and the criminal code contains provisions against blasphemy, penalizing those who “distort” or “misrepresent” official faiths. The national government has often failed to respond to religious intolerance in recent years, and societal discrimination has increased. A 2006 joint ministerial decree requires religious groups seeking to build houses of worship to obtain the written approval of 60 immediate neighbors. In 2010 the Supreme Court overturned the 2006 revocation of a building permit for GKI Yasmin Church in West Java, but the local administration has continued to prevent the congregation from using the premises. In April 2011, a Buddhist statue in Sumatra was ordered taken down by the Religious Affairs Ministry after complaints from local residents.
Violence against Ahmadiyya, a heterodox Islamic sect with approximately 400,000 Indonesian followers, continued in 2011. In the February mob attack in Cikeusik, West Java, the brutal killing of three Ahmadis was captured on video. Soon afterward, 29 Ahmadis, allegedly under coercion, renounced their faith and converted to mainstream Islam. Allegations of a military role in forcing conversions surfaced in March. Ahmadiyya was banned in West Sumatra and Depok that month, in South Sulawesi in June, and in Bekasi in October. In a December report, the National Commission on Violence Against Women listed 26 regencies and municipalities that have passed bylaws restricting or banning Ahmadiyya. Discrimination and violence against the sect have increased since 2008, when the Religious Affairs Ministry recommended that it be banned nationwide, and the government, seeking a compromise, instead barred Ahmadis from proselytizing.
In addition to the Christian-Muslim violence that erupted in Ambon in September, attacks against churches continued in 2011. In February, a mob burned two churches in Temanggung, Central Java, after defendant Antonius Richmond Bawengan was sentenced to the maximum of five years in prison for blasphemy against Islam. The rioters reportedly called for the death penalty. In June, Muslim cleric Syihabudin was sentenced to one year in jail for inciting the Temanggung mob. Also in February, Murhali Barda, the head of the FPI branch in Bekasi, West Java, was sentenced to less than six months in jail for “unpleasant conduct,” having incited a September 2010 attack that included the stabbing and beating of leaders of a Protestant church. Several other defendants received similar sentences for the attack.
Academic freedom in Indonesia is generally respected.
Freedom of assembly is usually upheld, and peaceful protests are commonplace in the capital. However, authorities have restricted the right to assembly in conflict areas. Flag-raising ceremonies and independence rallies in Papua are routinely disbanded—as was the case with the Papuan People’s Congress gathering in October 2011—and participants have been prosecuted.
Indonesia hosts a strong and active array of civil society organizations, though some human rights groups are subject to monitoring and interference by the government. Moreover, independence activists in Papua and the Maluku Islands, and labor and political activists in Java and Sulawesi, remain targets for human rights abuses. No high-level official has been convicted for any serious human rights violation since the fall of Suharto. Two Greenpeace activists were deported for visa violations in October 2011; the organization said it was under pressure after antagonizing business interests in the country with its efforts to halt deforestation.
Workers can join independent unions, bargain collectively, and with the exception of civil servants, stage strikes. The labor movement is generally fragmented, and government enforcement of minimum-wage and other labor standards is weak. However, relatively rigid labor laws include generous severance pay and strike provisions. Approximately 10 percent of workers in the formal economy—which accounts for one-sixth of the total economy—belong to unions. Domestic workers are currently excluded from labor law protections. In December, a three-month strike of approximately 8,000 workers ended at the Freeport Indonesia mine in Papua. The dispute, marred by at least nine deaths, was resolved with a pay increase.
The judiciary, particularly the Constitutional Court, has demonstrated its independence in some cases, but the court system remains plagued by corruption and other weaknesses. The Supreme Court has been the slowest to reform among the country’s judicial institutions. Low salaries for judicial officials and impunity for illegal activity perpetuate the problems of bribery, forced confessions, and interference in court proceedings by military personnel and government officials at all levels. In June 2011, the parliament passed a bill that limited the powers of the Constitutional Court, removing its authority to revise laws or issue rulings that address issues beyond the petitioners’ requests. However, the court annulled the controversial articles in the law in October, effectively restoring its powers. Also in 2011, the Presidential Judicial Mafia Task Force, appointed by the president in 2009 to fight corruption and case brokering in the legal system, reported 51 cases of allegedly corrupt prosecutors to the attorney general’s office.
Since 2006, a number of districts have issued local ordinances based on Sharia (Islamic law). Many are unconstitutional, contradict Indonesia’s international human rights commitments, or are unclear, leading to enforcement problems. The national government and various parties have failed to take decisive action on the issue, apparently for political reasons. Many of the ordinances seek to impose an Islamic dress code, Koranic literacy requirements, and bans on prostitution. For example, a bylaw passed in 2009 by the West Aceh legislature prohibits women from wearing trousers. Other measures are more extreme. In 2009, the Aceh provincial parliament passed legislation that, among other provisions, allows stoning for adultery and public lashing for homosexual acts. Two people were caned in Aceh in April 2011 for having an extramarital affair, and 14 people were caned for gambling in May. Other local regulations unrelated to Sharia have also been criticized for violating constitutional protections.
Members of the security forces regularly go unpunished or receive light sentences for human rights violations. These include ongoing abuses in conflict zones like Papua, but they are largely related to land disputes and military involvement in illegal activities such as logging and mining. According to the Indonesian Farmers Union, there were 120 land conflicts nationwide in 2011, an increase from 22 in 2010. Such clashes frequently lead to the shooting of protesters by police. In 2010 the national police issued a regulation allowing officers to use live ammunition to quell anarchic violence.
In October 2011, the parliament passed legislation that gave the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) greater authority to gather information on those suspected of terrorism, espionage, or threatening national security. The law also criminalized the leaking of state secrets to the public, which critics warned could lead to abuse of power given the broad definitions of secret information.
Effective police work has proven critical to Indonesia’s recent successes in fighting terrorism, but the police force remains rife with corruption and other abuses, and officers have generally avoided criminal penalties. Currently, information garnered through torture is permissible in Indonesian courts, and torture carried out by law enforcement officers is not a criminal offense. The Indonesian Legal Aid Institute found in 2010 that up to 80 percent of detainees suffered from acts of violence in police custody. Detention laws are generally respected, but there are many reports of abuse aimed at female and minority detainees. Student activists are the most prone to arbitrary arrest, followed by farmers and journalists. Poor prison governance is compounded by overcrowding.
Members of Indonesia’s ethnic minority groups face considerable discrimination. The problems of mining and logging on communal land and state appropriation of land claimed by indigenous groups are most acute in Kalimantan. Ethnic Chinese, who make up less than 3 percent of the population but are resented for reputedly holding much of the country’s wealth, continue to face harassment and occasional violence. Sexual minorities also suffer discrimination, and gay-themed events have encountered resistance from local officials and open hostility from groups like the FPI. Many local bylaws criminalize homosexuality, and a 2008 antipornography law labels homosexuality a “deviant act.”
Discrimination against women persists, particularly in the workplace. In the political sphere, a 2008 law states that 30 percent of a political party’s candidates and board members must be women. While only 101 women were elected to the 560-seat DPR in 2009, this was an increase over the 63 who served during the previous term. Trafficking of women and children for prostitution, forced labor, and debt bondage continues, despite the passage of new laws and stricter penalties. Abortion is illegal, except to save a woman’s life. Sharia-based ordinances in a number of districts infringe on women’s constitutional rights; it is estimated that over 150 bylaws discriminate against women and minorities.
The 2008 antipornography law applies not just to published images but to speech and gestures that “incite sexual desire,” drawing concerns that it could be used to persecute women. Significantly, the law invites the “public” to participate in the discouragement of pornographic acts, which has led to extrajudicial enforcement. A Constitutional Court ruling in 2010 upheld the law. In January 2011, the lead singer of a popular band was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for making sexually explicit video recordings that circulated on the internet in 2010. However, in a separate case in June, after a review of its own 2009 ruling, the Supreme Court exonerated the editor of the relatively mild Indonesian version of Playboy magazine, who had been jailed in 2010 for public indecency.