Indonesia: The Anti-Subversion Law: A briefing

'[T]he Anti-subversion Law can be used to punish people whose ideas are different from those of the government. It allows prosecutors and judges to act as if they can read the accused's mind'.[1] In Indonesia subversion is punishable by death, yet those accused of this crime are denied the most basic rights, including the right to a fair trial, which would provide them with the opportunity to defend themselves against the charge. Most of those convicted of subversion in Indonesia have done nothing more than peacefully express views which differ from those of the government authorities. In a state where national stability, security and order are among the key 'national goals' such peaceful opposition, perceived or real, is considered to threaten the stability of the state and its ideology and, as such, is deemed subversive. The legislation which makes the criminalisation of peaceful dissent possible is the 1963 Anti-subversion Law. This law has been employed extensively by the Indonesian Government to silence dissent by detaining without trial hundreds of thousands of alleged political opponents during the past 32 years. Hundreds of others charged with subversion have been put through unfair trials and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment or even put to death. In recent years, faced with strong criticism of the law, including from Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights (Komisi Nasional Hak Azasi Manusia, Komnas HAM), its use by the authorities had declined. The international community had referred to the decline in use of the Anti-subversion Law as evidence of an improving human rights situation in Indonesia. Its application, however, had not ceased entirely particularly in more remote areas that are less accessible to international scrutiny such as Aceh in northern Sumatra. This downward trend was sharply reversed after the raid on the Jakarta headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party (Partai Demokratik Indonesia, PDI) by members of the security forces and alleged supporters of a rival faction of the PDI in July 1996. In the months following the raid over one hundred political activists, human rights defenders, trade unionists and others were arrested accused of having instigated the riots which followed the raid. Ten of the people arrested have since been charged under the Anti-subversion Law and are now on trial in Jakarta. Three labour activists are also on trial for subversion in the East Java town of Surabaya for their involvement in peaceful labour activism. Amnesty International considers this to be a clear example of the use of repressive legislation to restrict civil and political rights in Indonesia. In a further example of a worrying trend towards an increased use of the law, another four people are facing charges under the Anti-subversion Law for their alleged role in riots in the West Java town of Tasikmalaya. Amnesty International believes that most, if not all, of those now on trial, or facing charges under the Anti-subversion Law are prisoners of conscience detained solely for their peaceful activities or expression of their views including calling for greater democracy in Indonesia, questioning the dominance of the military in Indonesian politics and calling for accountability for the Indonesian President and government for human rights violations. This document provides a summary of Amnesty International's main concerns relating to the Anti-subversion Law and how this legislation has facilitated serious human rights violations including the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience, torture, unfair trials, 'disappearance' and possible extra-judicial killings. Amnesty International continues to call on the government for this legislation to be repealed. The organization is also calling on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those who are currently detained and on trial, or facing charges, under the Anti-subversion Law because of their peacefully held views or non-violent activities.

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