Indonesia: New President Widodo must make good on human rights pledges

Indonesia’s new President Joko Widodo must deliver on campaign promises to improve Indonesia’s dire human rights situation, Amnesty International said.

Indonesia’s new President Joko Widodo must deliver on campaign promises to improve Indonesia’s dire human rights situation, Amnesty International said.

Widodo, who today was confirmed as winner of the 9 July presidential elections, has pledged to champion human rights during his time in the office – including addressing serious past human rights abuses, protecting freedom of religion, reforming the police and opening up access to Papua for international observers.

“It’s encouraging that President Widodo has talked about his commitment to human rights during his election campaign – now he must deliver,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

“The new government has the opportunity to turn a page to an era when human rights are genuinely respected in Indonesia. Widodo’s victory will have raised the hopes of many brave human rights activists and victims who have struggled against impunity for years – those hopes must not be dashed.”

“As a very first step, we urge the new administration to undertake a thorough assessment of Indonesia’s human rights record over the past decade and formulate a clear action plan. Crucially, this must be done together with civil society and other key actors.”


In April 2014, Amnesty International published a human rights agenda for Indonesia’s next president, outlining eight pressing issues that must be top of the new administration’s agenda. These include:

Combat the climate of impunity for past crimes

The President should instruct the Attorney General Office to complete investigations in relation to crimes under international law, it has received from the National Human Rights Commission and other bodies and bring the perpetrators to justice. Further, a National Truth Commission should be established in line with international law and standards which can also recommend reparation measures to address the suffering of victims.

Respect for freedom of religion and religious tolerance

Respect for freedom of religion and religious tolerance have clearly deteriorated in recent years. The new administration should repeal all laws and regulations that discriminate against religious minorities which have been used to justify harassment and attacks against them.

Human rights abuses by the police

Amnesty International has documented a range of human rights violations committed by the police, including unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment and unnecessary or excessive use for force and firearms. Criminal investigations into human rights violations by the police are all too rare, leaving many victims without access to justice and reparations. The National Police Commission should be made operationally independent of the government, political influence and the police itself. Its mandate should empower it to, among other things, carry out effective investigations and refer cases directly to the Public Prosecutor.

Release prisoners of conscience

Dozens of prisoners of conscience, particularly those from Papua and Maluku, remain behind bars for their peaceful political activism in Indonesia, and must be immediately released. Their ongoing imprisonment highlights the continued lack of respect for freedom of expression in certain parts of Indonesia. Amnesty International also calls on President Widodo to allow free and unimpeded access to Papua for international observers, including NGOs and foreign journalists, as he promised during his visit to Papua during the election campaign.

Promote and protect human rights in ASEAN

Indonesia, which has the region’s highest GDP and hosts the Association of South East Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) headquarters in Jakarta, is quickly emerging as a leader in South East Asia. The country’s next president must take this role seriously and set an example for neighbours, and the world, on human rights. Indonesia has already played a positive role in setting up some key ASEAN human rights bodies since 2007 – this commitment must continue under the new administration in particularly to strengthen the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to be a truly independent and robust body that protects as well as promote human rights in the region.