A prominent human rights lawyer in Indonesia has been cleared of charges relating to a text message he is alleged to have sent to his friends and family contacts. Iwanggin Sabar Olif, a member of the Papuan organization ELSHAM (Lembaga Studi dan Advokasi Hak Asasi Manusia, Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy), had faced up to six years in prison.
message asked people to be careful because Indonesian President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono had ordered a deadly program together with the army aimed at
"eradicating" (membasmikan) the Papuan population through food
poisoning and other violent actions. However, Iwanggin Sabar Olif always denied
having written or sent this message, or even having received it.
been charged under Article 160 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code (KUHP, Kitab
Undang-Undang Hukum Pidana), which punishes "any person who orally or in writing
incites in public to commit a punishable act, a violent action against the
public authority or any other disobedience".
This article has been used
in the past against human rights defenders in ious parts of Indonesia
including Aceh, Java, East Kalimantan and Maluku to suppress freedom of
expression and assembly.
However, the Jayapura District Court in Papua
province, cleared Iwanggin Sabar Olif of all charges on Thursday.
decision comes nearly two weeks after the Papuan High Court extended the prison
sentences of 11 protesters who were appealing their conviction merely because
they had displayed a banned flag.
Amnesty International welcomed the
acquittal of Iwanggin Sabar Olif, but called on the Indonesia authorities to
ensure that Article 160 is no longer used to undermine the right to freedom of
"Iwanggin Sabar Olif should never have been arrested in the
first place. His detention from October 2007 to January 2008 and his subsequent
trial took over 15 months," said Donna Guest, from Amnesty International. "This
prevented him from carrying out his legitimate work as a human rights defender
"As Hina Jilani, then Special Representative on Human Rights
Defenders, recommended in her report after her June 2007 visit to Indonesia,
procedures should be 'instituted to prevent the prosecution of human rights
defenders aimed at their harassment for conducting activities that are
legitimately a part of their for the defence of human rights."