2014 Scores

Status: Partly Free
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst): 3.0
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst): 4
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst): 2

Status Change Explanation:

Indonesia's civil liberties rating declined from 3 to 4 and its status declined from Free to Partly Free due to the adoption of a law that restricts the activities of nongovernmental organizations, increases bureaucratic oversight of such groups, and requires them to support the national ideology of Pancasila – including its explicitly monotheist component.


A much-criticized revision of Indonesia's mass organization law was passed by the parliament in July 2013. The measure imposes new restrictions and additional state supervision on the operations of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and obliges them to adhere to the national ideology of Pancasila, whose five core principles notably include monotheism.

The legislation came amid a multiyear pattern of discrimination and violence against religious minorities, which continued unabated in 2013. Major incidents during the year included the forced sealing of multiple Ahmadiyya mosques in West Java, several mob attacks against other houses of worship in East and West Java, attacks against Sufi Muslim boarding school property in southern Aceh, and the demolition of a Protestant church in West Java. The only individual to stand trial for a deadly mob attack against a Shiite Muslim community in 2012 was acquitted in April.

Despite such mob violence, Indonesia continued to make progress in combating terrorism during the year. In June, a key bomb maker received a 10-year sentence for recruiting and training militants, and a terrorist cell member was sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in a plot to bomb police targets in Jakarta. However, Muslim-Buddhist strife centered on the plight of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Burma, which spilled into Indonesia when a bomb was set off at a Buddhist temple in Jakarta in August, injuring several people. The perpetrators were allegedly linked to those behind a foiled bomb plot against the Burmese embassy in Jakarta in May. Both criminal cases were ongoing at year's end.

In the eastern provinces of Papua and West Papua, where the central government's exploitation of natural resources has stirred resentment and separatist action, members of the security forces continued to enjoy relative impunity for abuses against civilians. Freedom of expression was routinely restricted, and gatherings were forcibly dispersed. Information regarding Papua incidents is limited due to restrictions on journalists. In April, two protesters were killed and 20 arrested during a pro-independence demonstration. A local journalist was severely beaten by three police officers in August, and in September police opened fire on civilians during a security sweep, leading to at least one death. Also in September, the prime minister of Vanuatu urged the United Nations to appoint a special representative to review the human rights situation in Papua.


Political Rights: 30 / 40

A. Electoral Process: 11 / 12

Elections in Indonesia are considered to be free and fair by independent monitoring groups. The House of Representatives (DPR), with 560 seats, is the main parliamentary chamber. The 132-member House of Regional Representatives (DPD) is responsible for monitoring laws related to regional autonomy. In March 2013, the Constitutional Court ruled that the DPD can propose bills on regional autonomy and the relationship between central and local governments; previously, the chamber could only review legislation and make recommendations. Presidents and vice presidents can serve up to two five-year terms, and all legislators also serve five-year terms.

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 April 2009 elections yielded a significant turnover in the DPR's membership, with approximately 75 percent of the chamber consisting of new lawmakers. The Democratic Party of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) won the contest, raising its share of seats to 148, from 55 in 2004. The Golkar party garnered 106 seats, and the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) took 94. Religious parties generally fared poorly, though the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), with its strong anticorruption platform, captured 57 seats. Five smaller parties divided the remainder. In the presidential election that July, SBY easily secured a second five-year term with 61 percent of the vote in the first round, defeating former president Megawati Sukarnoputri of PDI-P and Jusuf Kalla of Golkar, the outgoing vice president. SBY's new running mate, former central bank governor Boediono, became vice president.

In April 2012, the DPR passed an amended election law that increased the vote threshold for parties to enter the parliament from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent, making it more difficult for small parties to win seats in the upcoming 2014 elections. In 2013, discrepancies between the eligible voter list of the General Election Commission (KPU) and identity numbers provided by the Home Affairs Ministry led to delays in the finalization of the 2014 voter list, with the eligibility of as many as 65 million voters in jeopardy. Inaccuracies in the voter list have affected past elections.

Direct elections for provincial and district leaders, including provincial and district parliaments, began in 2005. Combined with the decentralization of political and fiscal power to the district and subdistrict levels in 1999, these direct elections have often led to tensions between the central government and local authorities, with the latter at times ignoring court or central government rulings, and are often marred by violence and contested results. Between 2008-2011, approximately 90 percent of district election results were contested at the Constitutional Court. In October, Constitutional Court chief justice Akil Mochtar, together with a member of parliament and an incumbent district head, were arrested for their alleged role in fixing rulings on contested district elections. Local direct elections have also proven to be extremely costly and have led to electoral fatigue and increased local conflict. The central government has in recent years considered ending direct elections for mayors and district heads, while maintaining them for provincial governors.

Under a law passed in August 2012, the hereditary sultan of Yogyakarta will be that region's unelected governor. The position will become nonpartisan, and the sultan will be subject to a verification process with minimum requirements – such as education – every five years beginning in 2016. The prince of Paku Alaman will similarly be deputy governor of the region.

B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 13 / 16

The right to organize political parties is respected in Indonesia, though in recent years the election laws have been amended to reduce the number of parties in parliament and the number of parties eligible to field a presidential candidate. In 1999, 48 parties competed; in 2013, only 12 parties passed verification processes for the 2014 elections. Parties must have chapters in all provinces, three quarters of the districts in those provinces, and at least half of the subdistricts in each district. 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. Proposed amendments to reduce the threshold for fielding a presidential candidate were rejected in October 2013. All political parties must satisfy national-level requirements to compete in district and provincial elections, except for those in the autonomous province of Aceh, where local-level parties are permitted under a 2005 peace agreement that ended a long-running insurgency.

Despite the relatively high bar for eligibility, one new national party, Partai NasDem, passed verification in 2013 and will compete in the 2014 elections, while two parties that competed for the first time in 2009, Partai Gerakan Indonesia Raya (Gerindra) and Partai Hati Nurani Rakyat (Hanura), will participate again in 2014. It is estimated that 90 percent of the candidates for the 2014 elections are incumbents.

Some local governments have discriminated against minorities by restricting access to national identification cards, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and other bureaucratic necessities, limiting their political rights and electoral opportunities.

C. Functioning of Government: 6 / 12

Elected officials and legislative representatives determine the policies of the government, but corruption remains endemic, including in the parliament and other key institutions such as the police. Indonesia was ranked 114 out of 177 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Among other high-profile cases during the year, Democratic Party lawmaker Angelina Sondakh was sentenced in January to four and half years in prison and another eight years in November after a Supreme Court appeal by the Corruption Eradication Commission. She was sentenced for receiving bribes related to construction contracts for the Youth and Sports Ministry, part of a larger corruption scandal that ensnared former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin in 2012 and has harmed SBY's reformist credentials. Nazaruddin's wife, Neneng Sri Wahyuni, was sentenced to six years in prison in March for her role in rigging a procurement tender for a solar energy project. In August, Rudi Rubiandini, the head of a special government task force to manage Indonesia's upstream oil and gas activities, was arrested for allegedly receiving a bribe related to energy contracts. In September, former police inspector general Djoko Susilo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for corruption and money laundering, which was increased to 18 years at the Jakarta High Court in December after an appeal by the defendant. That case received widespread attention due to a long-running conflict between the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the national police. Also in September, former senior Health Ministry official Ratna Dewi Umar was sentenced to five years in prison for graft related to the procurement of medical equipment. In December, former PKS president and lawmaker Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq was sentenced to 16 years in prison for taking bribes to arrange a beef import quota increase for a private company.

A 2009 anticorruption law diluted the authority and independence of both the KPK and the Anticorruption Court (Tipikor), allowing the creation of regional corruption courts. Tipikor had been established partly to counteract the acquittals commonly issued in regular, regional courts. Even those who are convicted in such courts often receive light sentences or benefit from mass pardons. Regional anticorruption court judge Asmadinata was dismissed by an ethics panel in July 2013 and formally named as a bribery suspect by the KPK in September. Two other ad hoc regional anticorruption court judges – Heru Kisbandono and Kartini Marpaung – had been jailed in March and April in the same case, which involved procurement violations by a former provincial parliament speaker.

Civil society groups are able to comment on and influence pending policies or legislation to a certain extent. For example, a judicial review that led to the 2012 dissolution of the energy regulator BPMigas was launched at the request of 42 organizations. However, government transparency is limited by obstacles including a 2011 law that criminalized the leaking of state secrets to the public. Critics warned that the law – which also gave the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) greater authority to gather information on those suspected of terrorism, espionage, or threatening national security – could lead to abuse of power given the broad definitions of secret information.

Civil Liberties: 34 / 60 (-1)

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 12 / 16

Indonesia hosts a vibrant and diverse media environment, though press freedom is 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. The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) recorded slightly fewer cases of violence against journalists in 2013, a total of 40 reduced from 56, in addition to 20 separate incidents against journalists in Papua, the latter an increase from the prior year. An AJI report accused the military of responsibility for 8 out of 30 violent assaults against journalists from January 2012 to August 2013.

Some progress was made in 2013 to hold officials accountable. In July, a local Religious Affairs Agency chief was sentenced to five months in jail for sending a death threat to a journalist who was reporting on salary cuts at the agency. In September, an air force officer was sentenced to three months in jail for his assault on a journalist who was covering a military plane crash in 2012, and in April three marines were sentenced to 11 months each for assaulting four journalists who were reporting on demolitions of unauthorized buildings.

Freedom of expression is generally upheld, though censorship and self-censorship of books and films for allegedly obscene or blasphemous content is fairly common. A 2012 documentary film about mass killings of suspected communists in 1965 is banned. Since 2011, authorities in Aceh have cracked down on "punks" for supposedly insulting Islam. Those rounded up by police are subjected to "reeducation," which includes the forcible shaving of their punk-rock hairstyles and a traditional cleansing ceremony. In 2013, despite the agreement of the hosts to remove the swimsuit portion of the competition, protests led by the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) forced the Miss World competition finale to be moved from Jakarta to Bali.

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.

Indonesia officially recognizes Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Since 2006, individuals have had the option of leaving the religion section of their national identity cards blank, but those who do not identify with a recognized religion face discrimination in practice. Atheism is not accepted, and the criminal code contains provisions against blasphemy, penalizing those who "distort" or "misrepresent" official faiths. The central 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 and a recommendation from the local Interreligious Harmony Forum (FKUB), composed of representatives from recognized religious groups according to the demographic breakdown of each district. Protestant congregations have struggled to secure local permission to build churches in parts of Java, even when authorized by the Supreme Court.

Violence and intimidation against Ahmadiyya, a heterodox Islamic sect with approximately 400,000 Indonesian followers, continued in 2013. Hostile acts against the group 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. The central government in 2013 affirmed its refusal to ban Ahmadiyya, but it continues to tolerate discrimination by local governments. In April and May in West Java, four Ahmadi mosques were sealed by local authorities and an Ahmadi community was attacked by a mob, with damage to 29 buildings. Also in May, a mob attacked and damaged a mosque in East Java. Another Ahmadi mosque was allegedly closed by the FPI in West Java in October.

The Shiite Muslim minority has also suffered violence and intimidation in recent years. In April 2013, a suspect in a 2012 mob attack on a Shiite community in Sampang, East Java, that left two people dead and many buildings damaged was acquitted of all charges. In September, Sampang residents independently initiated and signed a peace agreement between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. The agreement, among other provisions, allows for the return of the Shiites to their villages on the condition that they not proselytize or file any lawsuits against the other residents. However, the majority of Sampang residents still had not returned at year's end. Forced conversion of Shiites has been an increasing concern, primarily due to public statements by Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali. In 2013, Suryadharma said the government would not require conversion, but would still require the displaced Sampang Shiites to undergo an official "enlightenment" program.

In February 2013, a Human Rights Watch report on Indonesian religious rights noted the repeated failure of the national and local governments to protect religious minorities, citing problems including local governments that bow to hard-line groups, failure to investigate violence, and bias on the part of prosecutors.

Academic freedom in Indonesia is generally respected.

E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 8 / 12 (-1)

Freedom of assembly is usually upheld, and peaceful protests are common 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, often violently, and participants have been prosecuted. In April 2013, police opened fire on a group of protesters in the province, causing two deaths; the protest was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the transfer of Papua to Indonesian authority.

Indonesia hosts a strong and active array of civil society organizations, with an estimated 28,000 officially registered, 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. The new law on mass organizations passed in July 2013, replacing a 1985 law, covers all civic and religious NGOs, including media. It received widespread criticism for provisions that undermine freedoms of association, expression, and religion. Under the new law, the government can dissolve organizations that do not espouse the principles of Pancasila. Organizations cannot commit blasphemy or advocate non-Pancasila ideologies, including Marxism-Leninism, atheism, and communism. The law also narrows the types of activities associations can undertake, increases bureaucratic controls by requiring all organizations to register with the government and submit to regular reviews of their activities, allows the government to dissolve noncompliant organizations, and includes other vague requirements that leave considerable discretion to local governments and courts. In addition, foreign groups are forbidden from activities that disrupt the stability and integrity of the country or its diplomatic relations.

Workers can join independent unions, bargain collectively, and with the exception of civil servants, stage strikes. The labor movement is generally fragmented, and enforcement of minimum-wage and other labor standards is weak. However, the labor laws include generous severance pay and strike provisions. Some unions have resorted to violence in their negotiations with employers, and labor-related demonstrations are widespread. Approximately 10 percent of workers in the formal economy – which accounts for one-sixth of the total economy – belong to unions. Household workers are currently excluded from labor law protections.

F. Rule of Law: 5 / 16

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 arrest of the Constitutional Court chief justice on graft charges in 2013 was a blow to public confidence in legal 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.

Effective police work has proven critical to Indonesia's recent successes in fighting terrorism, but the security forces in general remain rife with corruption and other abuses, and personnel regularly go unpunished or receive light sentences for human rights violations. In recent years the police have been faulted for failing to prevent or mitigate mob attacks on religious minority communities. In 2010 the national police issued a regulation allowing officers to use live ammunition to quell situations of "anarchic violence." In 2012, the International Crisis Group released a report highlighting the increasing rate of attacks on police by angry crowds. The report attributed the hostility to the cumulative effects of police brutality, bribery, and lack of accountability. In March 2013, three police officers were given lenient sentences of between two and five years in prison for torturing and killing a man in their custody in 2011.

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. Student activists are the most prone to arbitrary arrest, followed by farmers and journalists. Poor prison governance is compounded by endemic overcrowding. Prisons are estimated to be overcrowded by an average of 45 percent, with some up to 400 percent over capacity. Prison riots and protests over lack of services have led to numerous jailbreaks. Prisoners are able to bribe guards for additional services and luxuries, and illegal activity is common. The International Crisis Group has reported on terrorist recruitment in prisons. In 2012, the DPR passed a Juvenile Court Law that raised the minimum age of incarceration to 14 years, ordered the creation of juvenile detention centers within five years, and prohibited the publication of court details about minors. Minors are often incarcerated with adults; prior to the new law, minors aged 8 and above were held criminally responsible for their acts and subject to incarceration.

The military (TNI) has in the past enjoyed relative impunity for criminal activities and human rights abuses, though internal reform efforts and public pressure has led to some improvements. Cases against TNI members for military crimes are tried in military courts; while cases for nonmilitary crimes are supposed to be tried in civilian courts, in practice they are not. In March 2013, three members of the Kopassus special forces unit raided a prison in Yogyakarta and killed four detainees who were awaiting trial for the killing of a soldier. They were tried in military courts and received between 3 and 11 years in prison in September. Five other soldiers were tried as accessories and sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Since the 1950s, separatists have waged a low-grade insurgency in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, where there is a large military presence. In February 2013, the Free Papua Movement (OPM) allegedly killed eight soldiers in a pair of attacks, marking the most deadly incident of its kind in recent years. Conflict between security forces and protesters is common, as are extrajudicial killings, tribal conflict, and conflict related to labor disputes at foreign-operated mines. Government and military officials often accuse human rights activists of being part of the separatist movement, and visits by foreigners, particularly foreign journalists, are highly restricted, perpetuating the lack of access to independent information and increasing impunity. In October, in a sign of potential improvement, the governor of West Papua announced that reporters would be allowed into the region and their safety guaranteed. According to the organization Papuans Behind Bars, as of December there were 70 political prisoners jailed in West Papua. In March, the government announced that it would increase the military presence in the region to facilitate construction of 14 new highways in Papua and West Papua. Corruption has undermined the central government's efforts to improve economic conditions in Papua. Special autonomy status was introduced in 2001 to undercut separatist agitation, but it provided for increased economic rather than political autonomy.

A 2000 law on human rights provides for the establishment of ad hoc human rights courts to hear cases related to gross violations committed before 2000. To date, no court has been set up to deal with violations during the Suharto era (1967-98), including in Aceh. In August 2013, the human rights organization Komnas HAM published a report detailing gross human rights violations perpetrated by security forces in Aceh during the nearly 30-year insurgency that ended in 2005.

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 central government and various parties have failed to take decisive action, apparently for political reasons. Many of the ordinances seek to impose an Islamic dress code, Koranic literacy requirements, and bans on prostitution. Other measures are more extreme. In 2009, the Aceh regional parliament passed legislation that, among other provisions, allows stoning for adultery and public lashing for same-sex sexual acts. A draft revision under consideration in 2013 would remove the stoning penalty. Separately, a local administration in Aceh passed a bylaw that bans women from riding astride motorcycles, and another administration passed one banning dancing. Local regulations unrelated to Sharia have also been criticized for violating constitutional protections.

In recent years, hard-line Islamist groups such as the FPI have engaged in raids and extrajudicial enforcement of Sharia bylaws, and pressured local governments to close churches and non-Sunni mosques. Their violent activities are not supported by large Islamic organizations such as the Nahdlatul Ulama, but the groups exert outsized influence and often have the support of high-ranking government officials. Security forces have been criticized for tacitly aiding them by ignoring their abuses.

Ethnic Chinese, who make up less than 3 percent of the population but are resented by some for reputedly holding much of the country's wealth, continue to face harassment. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people also suffer discrimination, and gay-themed events have encountered resistance from local officials and open hostility from hard-line Islamist groups. Many local bylaws criminalize homosexuality, and a 2008 antipornography law labels same-sex sexual acts as "deviant."

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 9 / 16

Freedom of travel and choice of residence, employment, and higher education are generally respected in Indonesia. However, the ability to obtain private business licenses and public employment is often limited by the need for bribes or other inducements. Corruption also affects businesses' daily operations and routine interactions with the state bureaucracy.

Property rights are threatened by mining and logging activity on communal land and state appropriation of land claimed by indigenous groups, particularly in Kalimantan. In May 2013, the Constitutional Court reviewed a 1999 law and ruled that indigenous people have the right to manage "customary forest" lands they inhabit. Before the ruling, such lands were under state control, allowing the government to grant concessions to extractive industries.

Discrimination against women persists, particularly in the workplace. 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 in the previous term. Trafficking of women and children for prostitution and forced labor continues, despite the passage of new laws and stricter penalties. Abortion is illegal, except to save a woman's life. National legislation deems rape a criminal offense, but adults over 15 years of age must have corroboration and witnesses for rape charges; while spousal rape is not specified in the criminal code, it is covered under domestic violence legislation. A September 2013 UN study found that 19.5 percent of rural male respondents, 26.2 percent of urban male respondents, and 48.6 percent of Papuan male respondents reported having raped a partner or nonpartner. Sharia-based ordinances in a number of districts infringe on women's constitutional rights. A draft Gender Equality Bill stalled in parliament in 2012 due to objections that it contradicted Sharia on issues such as inheritance and allowed interreligious marriage. Several local governments have in recent years called for virginity tests for female high school students and drafted related local bylaws. A draft national criminal code under consideration in 2013 would ban adultery and cohabitation by unmarried couples.

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, leading to extrajudicial enforcement. A Constitutional Court ruling in 2010 upheld the law.

Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.