Category Archives: News


South Sudan’s peace process ‘precarious, but progress in being made’, Security Council hears

Source: UN Mission in South Sudan
Country: South Sudan

In his speech, David Shearer said it was vital to maintain momentum. “That very much depends on the goodwill of the parties as well as the collective and unrelenting focus of the country’s international friends.”

Just six days ago, we marked the first anniversary of the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan.

At the official ceremony last year, I witnessed much jubilation and hope that the agreement signaled an end to war and the beginning of a new era of peace.

The citizens of South Sudan had high expectations.

Over the past year, their political leaders have met some, but certainly not all, of those expectations.

The recent visit of Dr. Riek Machar to Juba, at the invitation of President Salva Kiir, was an important development. The face-to-face meetings – which many of us believe are fundamental to moving forward – provided an opportunity to discuss critical unresolved parts of the peace agreement.

Publicly, the demeanor of the two men appeared conciliatory and they reportedly spent several hours in formal and informal discussions. These meetings need to continue.

Importantly, they recommitted to forming the Transitional Government – a positive step because it maintains the momentum of peace and bolsters confidence among South Sudanese.

The challenge remains, of course, to show tangible results.

Three key areas require progress.

First: the unification of security forces.

Of the 35 cantonment sites planned, 23 are now occupied by Opposition forces and ten by the Government. Troop registration has begun. Food, water and other resources are starting to be delivered.

However, many sites lack basic amenities and protection risks may arise in nearby villages if these shortfalls continue.

More fundamental differences also persist: The Opposition imagines a newly constituted security sector whereas the Government presumes Opposition troops subsumed into existing forces.

A strategy for a unified security sector is required. UNMISS has contracted an experienced retired general from the region to help parties determine the future security policy including the size and shape of forces.

Secondly, the Independent Boundaries Commission was unable to reach consensus on the number of states and boundaries.

Resolution via a referendum, we believe, is implausible given the expense and time needed. Instead, political consensus is needed. The Kiir-Machar dialogue last week called for a committee to address this sensitive issue and we hope that is able to be resolved.

Third, the agreement provides for five vice-presidents, each leading a cluster of Cabinet portfolios. Two months out from a transitional government these still need to be determined.
Finally, non-signatories to the agreement, need to move from violent opposition to constructive participation.

One year on, peace is beginning to pay dividends for the citizens of South Sudan.

First, and critically, the ceasefire largely continues to hold. Political violence and subsequent displacement has decreased markedly.

Opposition members continue to move and work in Juba alongside government counterparts to implement key elements of the peace agreement.

There have been more than 130 different rapprochements held across the country which demonstrate confidence and commitment at the grassroots level.

The latest IPC report documents a slight improvement in food security. Five percent fewer people now face crisis or worse acute food insecurity compared to last year. This is directly attributed to peace.

Displaced families and refugees returning home mean more crops are being planted while improved security has enhanced access to markets and humanitarian access. According to FAO, cereal production has increased by 150,000 metric tonnes in one year; an indication of what peace can achieve.

Still, some 6.3 million people – 54 percent of the population – remain food insecure and have limited access to healthcare. Child malnutrition has also increased.

But we are seeing a change. The IPC severity map is, at least, becoming more orange and yellow, rather than red.

Humanitarian access is improving. Incidents are down 30 percent on last year and humanitarians are becoming emboldened to reach out to more remote areas.

Administrative impediments are still too frequent. UNMISS has been blocked by the Government from accessing areas where civilians and convoys require protection with124 violations of the Status of Forces Agreement lodged this year.

The relative calm has enabled more displaced families to return home with IOM registering 594,000 returnees since the peace agreement was signed.

During the same period, 17,000 displaced people left UNMISS protection sites while 180,000 remain.

At the Council’s request, we have reported back on future planning for the POC sites, detailing the challenges of prolonged displacement and the impediments to safe, voluntary and dignified return.
These impediments include perceptions of security; but more frequently the lack of health and education services in return areas; and concern about the fragility of the peace process.
The report’s findings, drawn from wide consultations, has enabled a shared understanding of challenges and is forming the basis of actions going forward which are already being developed.

To reflect the changing security environment, UNMISS is rebalancing the deployment of uniformed peacekeepers, moving away from static protection at POC sites to increase confidence building patrols in areas where people will be returning to.

However, the Government must take the lead in creating safe and supported communities so displaced families and refugees have the confidence and ability to return. A South Sudan that is truly at peace will no longer need UN protection sites.

The formation of the Transitional Government provides an opportunity to lift our gaze from immediate challenges and look over the horizon towards elections that are expected at the end of the three-year transition.

Elections give the opportunity to resolve differences through democratic rather than violent means.
To make a fundamental shift from deals done between elites to a duty to deliver policies by a government elected by the people.

Holding free and fair elections is not just about preparing logistically but will require the creation of a political space where parties can form, can discuss policies and can campaign freely.

I say this, because there is mounting resentment amongst South Sudanese towards elites amassing wealth while people themselves remain some of the poorest in the world.

The government’s budget is 46 percent higher than last year with no indication of how a $496 milliondollar gap will be funded. There is also little transparency about where oil revenue is being spent.

The Ministry of Finance reduced health spending by 16% this year, handing almost the entire burden of health to external donors.

And reports of government expenditure have not been received since the first quarter of 2017/18.
Meanwhile the salaries of civil servants, including teachers, health workers and police officers, are often months late.

Criminality remains a serious problem with random attacks on civilians, most commonly by unpaid soldiers and former combatants.

The UN is also providing technical assistance to reform and rebuild the justice system, not just to tackle criminal acts, but to address the more pervasive issue of impunity.

Mobile courts staffed by South Sudanese judiciary, who have done an excellent job, have expanded beyond Bentiu and Malakal. In the next few weeks they will try hundreds of serious cases, including sexual and gender-based violence cases.

The bottom line is simply this.

While the situation for many South Sudanese citizens remains bleak, the last year of peace has kickstarted a transformative process that is improving people’s lives.

This could not have happened without the ceasefire or the confidence generated by the peace process.

The country’s leaders and international peace partners deserve credit for this.

Across the country I have personally witnessed former enemies, once committed to killing each other, sitting amicably across the table planning a future together.

If South Sudan’s leaders ever needed inspiration to reconcile and work in the country’s best interests, they can find it under trees and in tukuls where communities are coming together to build peace.

I promise you that UNMISS is working alongside them to lay strong foundations so that peace can be sustained. As always, our efforts are in partnership with the laudable efforts of IGAD and the African Union.

The peace process remains precarious, but progress is being made.

Maintaining momentum remains is the absolute key. And that depends very much on the continuing goodwill of the parties as well as the collective and unrelenting focus of international friends to support the formation of a transitional government.


Tajikistan: Barriers to Aid for Domestic Violence Victims

(Warsaw) – Tajikistan’s government takes little action to investigate or prosecute domestic violence cases and is doing far too little to help survivors, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Despite progress in some areas, Tajik law does not criminalize domestic violence, and women who experience abuse lack adequate protection and access to shelter and other services.

“He Often Beat Me Up”

Senior researcher Steve Swerdlow talks about domestic violence in Tajikistan, and how oftentimes no one – from the police, to judges, to their own families – will help victims. 

The 93-page report, “‘Violence with Every Step’: Weak State Response to Domestic Violence in Tajikistan,” documents obstacles to help and justice for domestic abuse survivors. Despite laws that guarantee survivors’ rights to protection and social services, Human Rights Watch found ongoing gaps in police and judicial responses to domestic violence, including refusing to investigate complaints, failing to issue or enforce protection orders, and treating domestic violence as a minor offense. Human Rights Watch also released a video with domestic violence survivors describing the hurdles they faced when trying to get protection.

“The response to domestic violence victims in Tajikistan often leaves them in danger,” said Steve Swerdlow, senior Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Officials are ignoring their obligations to enforce Tajikistan’s law on domestic violence.”


Tajikistan: Barriers to Aid for Domestic Violence Victims

The Tajik government takes little action to investigate or prosecute domestic violence cases and is doing far too little to help survivors. 

A 2013 law on preventing domestic violence led to important measures, such as awareness-raising campaigns and staffing of some police stations with specially trained female police inspectors. But survivors, lawyers, and service providers report that police often ignore the law, and that victims lack adequate protection from abuse and access to shelters.

Underreporting and insufficient data collection make it difficult to assess the scale of domestic violence in Tajikistan, but local and international groups report that it is commonplace. In 2016, United Nations Women, the UN agency that champions gender equality, reported that domestic abuse affects at least one in five women and girls throughout the country, drawing on government statistics. In November 2018, the UN committee that oversees implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women expressed concern that domestic violence in Tajikistan is “widespread but underreported” and that, along with marital rape and sexual assault, it is not criminalized.

Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 80 people, including 55 female domestic violence survivors from the country. Human Rights Watch also interviewed police, lawyers, shelter and crisis center staff members, government officials, service providers, and representatives of the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and other international organizations with projects on violence against women.

The Tajik government had not responded to requests for information regarding the implementation of the 2013 domestic violence law or provided any comment on the findings.

Women interviewed reported enduring years of abuse, usually by husbands or partners, including rape, stabbing, strangulation, and beatings with sharp and heavy objects such as a shovel, a fireplace poker, an iron, and a chair. They said abusers deprived them of food, clothing, and access to toilets or the kitchen. Women said the violence caused injuries, including internal bleeding and damage to vital organs, concussions, skull fractures, broken jaws, and severe bruises, as well as symptoms of trauma and emotional distress.

“After he beat me, I narrowly escaped and went to the city prosecutor’s office covered in blood,” said a 28-year-old woman who endured four years of spousal abuse and rape. But as she tried to report the violence, she said the prosecutor interrupted, saying, “Aren’t you yourself to blame?” He called her husband, exposing her whereabouts, and told her, “Everything will work out fine. Go home.”

Tajikistan’s domestic violence law allows police and courts to issue temporary or long-term protection orders to prohibit abuse or bar contact between the abuser and the victim. However, many survivors said that the police never informed them about protection orders or failed to enforce the orders or penalize abusers who violated them. Abusers are rarely prosecuted or brought to justice, Human Rights Watch found.

“Those responsible for domestic violence should be brought to justice,” Swerdlow said. “Without accountability, abusers are sent a message that domestic violence is acceptable.”

Survivors also face a dire lack of services. Tajikistan has only four specialized shelters for domestic violence survivors for a population of nearly nine million people, far short of the minimum called for in international standards. Nongovernmental groups provide most of the available services. Although Tajikistan has a network of state-supported women’s resource centers throughout the country, qualified psychosocial and mental health counselors are virtually nonexistent, and there is almost no legal assistance for survivors, including for property division following divorce.

Survivors and activists said that even in women’s resource centers and shelters, most available counseling focuses on reconciling survivors with their abusers rather than ensuring protection, services, and accountability for serious ongoing violence. Women said they were often encouraged to return to abusive relationships and continued to experience violence.

Other barriers include financial dependence on abusers and fear of losing custody of their children. Many women said they remained in abusive relationships or tried to reconcile with abusive husbands who had abandoned them because they and their children would otherwise go hungry.

In Tajikistan, where wives usually live with their in-laws, housing options, even after divorce, are extremely limited. A provision of Tajik law known as vseleniie means that courts often order that a divorced woman and her children be allocated a portion of the home of her former in-laws and husband in which to reside. Vseleniie has placed many women and survivors of abuse in even more precarious situations where they are exposed to continuing risks of violence.

Other harmful practices that can heighten the risk of domestic violence include polygamy and unregistered, forced, and child marriages, even though the government has raised the marriage age to 18 and taken steps to ensure that couples register their marriages with the state.

The Tajik government should amend the domestic violence law to explicitly criminalize domestic violence, Human Rights Watch said. It should ensure that police, prosecutors, and judges issue and enforce protection orders and investigate and prosecute domestic violence. Officials who fail to do so should be disciplined.

The government should also support shelter, health, psychosocial, and legal services for survivors, including by expanding legal aid and domestic violence shelters. The government should amend the vseleniie provision and develop longer-term housing options for vulnerable segments of the population, including domestic violence survivors.

Tajikistan’s international partners, including international aid agencies, should press the Tajik government to criminalize domestic violence. They should also offer further assistance for shelters, affordable longer-term housing, and other services for victims of domestic violence.

“The Tajikistan authorities’ priority should be protecting women from abuse, not pressuring them to return to unsafe environments,” Swerdlow said. “Tajikistan should ensure that domestic violence is investigated and prosecuted, and that there are shelters and other services available to keep women safe.”


Lebanon: Judiciary Ignoring 2017 Anti-Torture Law

Hassan al-Dika 

© Private

(Beirut) – Lebanese judicial authorities failed to investigate serious torture allegations made by Hassan al-Dika prior to his death in custody, Human Rights Watch said today, on the two-year anniversary of the passage of an anti-torture law.

Internal Security Forces (ISF) officers arrested al-Dika, 44, on November 1, 2018 on drug-related charges. Al-Dika alleged that ISF officers subjected him to repeated beatings and electric shocks, suspended him in stress positions, and forced him to confess, including in notes he allegedly smuggled out of prison. Prison authorities transferred him to a hospital on April 2, 2019 due to his deteriorating health, which his family said resulted from torture in ISF detention. He died in the hospital on May 11.

“The prosecutor’s failure to investigate Hassan al-Dika’s allegations underscores serious failings in how Lebanon’s judiciary is handling torture complaints,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The procedures in the anti-torture law are intended to safeguard the evidence and provide accountability for the crime of torture. Yet two years on, we have yet another case in which authorities failed to follow the law.”

On July 31, in response to a Human Rights Watch letter inquiring about the investigation into al-Dika’s death and torture complaints, Justice Minister Albert Serhan sent Human Rights Watch a copy of the investigation results compiled by the acting cassation prosecutor following al-Dika’s death.

The report stated that the ISF’s Central Criminal Investigations Department conducted the investigation, although the anti-torture law prohibits security agencies from carrying out torture investigations. An investigation by the ISF into actions committed by its own officers is neither independent nor impartial, Human Rights Watch said.

Toufic al-Dika, Hassan al-Dika’s father, who was also acting as his lawyer, filed a complaint with the public prosecutor on November 21, 2018 alleging that his son had been tortured. Instead of referring the complaint to an investigative judge within 48 hours as required under the anti-torture law, the public prosecutor sent it to the ISF, whose officers allegedly committed the torture.

The public prosecutor also did not appoint a forensic medical examiner within 48 hours of receiving the complaint on November 21 as the law requires. Ghassan Moukheiber, a former member of parliament and architect of the anti-torture law, told Human Rights Watch that he met with the public prosecutor in November after Hassan al-Dika’s father submitted the torture complaint to her, urged her to appoint a doctor to examine al-Dika, and that she refused. When he cited the anti-torture law, Moukheiber said, the public prosecutor told him that “she had not seen the law.” On May 12, the investigative judge who issued al-Dika’s arrest warrant also said that that the public prosecutor had not agreed to appoint a forensic doctor to examine al-Dika. The public prosecutor claimed in response that she had authorized al-Dika’s transfer to the hospital and ordered a medical committee to examine al-Dika, but she did so many months after the torture complaint.

On November 23, another public prosecutor authorized Toufic al-Dika to appoint a medical examiner “at his own expense.” Al-Dika’s family appointed a physician and psychiatrist to examine him. Both reported that al-Dika was suffering from serious physical and psychological trauma as a result of abuse. The authorities subsequently claimed that the physician had written a false report, but the psychiatrist’s findings alone should have prompted the authorities to investigate the torture allegations. Despite the psychiatrist’s compelling medical findings, the public prosecution still did not refer the complaint to the judiciary as mandated by law.

While the acting cassation prosecutor’s investigation report, compiled on July 27, after al-Dika’s death, states that a sergeant and nurse examined him upon his transfer to pretrial detention at the Baabda Justice Palace on November 9, as did a physician from the ISF on November 19 who found a number of contusions on al-Dika’s shoulders and right arm, government statements immediately after al-Dika’s death do not reference those medical examinations. While an ISF statement on May 12 disputes the findings of the physician appointed by al-Dika’s family, it does not indicate that other examinations were conducted.

On December 10, Toufic al-Dika filed another torture complaint directly with the investigative judge, enclosing both reports from the physician and psychiatrist he appointed. Both Toufic al-Dika and Moukheiber told Human Rights Watch that the clerk at the judge’s office initially refused to register the complaint. They also alleged that when the investigative judge finally registered the complaint on February 27, he shared details of the complaint with ISF officers.

Subsequently, Toufic al-Dika told Human Rights Watch that he received threats to his life that he deemed serious, compelling him to withdraw both complaints on March 20. The anti-torture law requires the authorities to ensure the protection of the person filing the complaint from ill-treatment and intimidation.

On January 25, three specialized United Nations experts sent a letter to the Lebanese government expressing grave concern about the alleged arbitrary detention, torture, and ill-treatment of al-Dika.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed concern on May 14, following Hassan al-Dika’s death, about the judiciary’s failure to investigate al-Dika’s original allegations of torture, and called for a “thorough, effective, and independent investigation” into his death.

Human Rights Watch also found that the ISF and the public prosecution committed serious due process violations, notably by arresting al-Dika outside the permissible hours and apparently falsifying the date of al-Dika’s arrest.

Human Rights Watch has routinely documented credible reports of torture in Lebanon. However, authorities have failed to properly investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment by security services, and justice for torture in detention remains elusive. Ziad Itani, a well-known actor exonerated of spying for Israel, has described in detail his forced disappearance and torture in detention at the hands of State Security in November 2017. Despite filing a lawsuit against the individuals involved in his torture in November 2018, there has been little movement on his case.

As a party to the Convention against Torture, Lebanon is required to take effective measures to prevent torture, investigate credible allegations of torture, and hold accountable anyone found guilty of committing torture with appropriate penalties that take into account the gravity of the crime.

Lebanon should allocate a sufficient budget for the National Preventative Mechanism against Torture and accept the pending request of the UN special rapporteur on torture to visit Lebanon, submitted on February 13, 2017.

“There is absolutely no excuse when prosecutors and judges continue to ignore the provisions of the anti-torture law,” Fakih said. “Lebanon needs to step up its efforts to combat torture and ensure that anyone found responsible for misconduct in Hassan al-Dika’s case is held accountable.”

Due Process Violations During Hassan al-Dika’s Arrest

Toufic al-Dika told Human Rights Watch that at around 9:30 p.m. on November 1, 2018 more than 50 armed and uniformed ISF officers stormed the building where he and his son Hassan lived in separate apartments, and arrested his son, Hassan al-Dika, without presenting an arrest warrant, even when Toufic asked them to do so.

The father said that he did not hear from his son until two days later when Hassan was allowed to make a brief phone call. He was not allowed to see his family or a lawyer until the ISF transferred him to the Baabda Justice Palace pretrial detention facility on November 9. The authorities subsequently transferred him to Roumieh Prison and then to Aley Prison.

Under Lebanese law, police are not allowed to enter a suspect’s home between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Unless a suspect is discovered in the act of committing a crime, police also cannot detain him without the public prosecutor’s prior approval. Article 47 of the Lebanese Code of Criminal Procedure also guarantees detained suspects the right to contact a person of their choosing, to meet with a lawyer, and to request a medical examination as soon as they are arrested. Arresting officers must inform detained suspects of these rights promptly upon arrest.

Pre-charge detention must not exceed 48 hours and can be renewed once for another 48 hours with the public prosecutor’s consent. In the investigation report that the Ministry of Justice sent to Human Rights Watch, the public prosecution claimed that the ISF arrested al-Dika on November 3, instead of November 1, and that the investigation with him concluded on November 5, after which the ISF referred his case to the public prosecution. ISF records compiled at the time of al-Dika’s arrest and interrogation, which Toufic shared with Human Rights Watch, indicate that al-Dika was arrested on November 1, not November 3.

The ISF stated that al-Dika remained at the ISF Information Branch until November 9 due to the lack of vacant pretrial detention places at the Baabda Justice Palace.

Officers found to have breached rules regarding the detention of a suspect are criminally liable for unlawful detention. The judiciary should ensure that an independent investigation is conducted into the allegations, and hold the responsible officers to account, Human Rights Watch said.

Hassan al-Dika’s Account of Torture

Human Rights Watch saw notes that Toufic al-Dika alleges his son Hassan al-Dika wrote during his pretrial detention at the Baabda Justice Palace, and smuggled out on cigarette cartons. In the notes, Hassan al-Dika described his ordeal at the ISF’s Information Branch. This account is consistent with reporting about Hassan’s case prior to his death.

He wrote that upon his arrest on the evening of Thursday, November 1, he was taken to a police building in the neighborhood of Ain El-Remmeneh, where he was kept overnight. The next morning, he was taken to the Information Branch, where officers handcuffed and blindfolded him, and forced him to remove his clothes. He stated that officers made him wait in a dark room “smaller than a toilet” for 15 minutes and then took him to a room where officers questioned him about his alleged drug smuggling. When al-Dika denied the accusations, he wrote, five officers beat him for two hours on his head, face, and stomach.  

After the beating, al-Dika wrote, officers interrogated him about his customs clearance company and his employees, and asked that he provide the requested information. He said he was then taken to a cell and left alone for two hours. Officers then entered the room and started questioning him about his alleged crime again. When he answered truthfully, he wrote, one of the officers called him a liar and officers beat him, applied electric shocks, and subjected him to the “falaka,” a form of torture that entails beating on the soles of the feet.

Al-Dika wrote that a few hours later, officers took him for interrogation again, where the torture was “on another level.” Officers beat him, including on his feet, and put him in the farrouj position, suspending him with his hands tied from an iron bar passed under his knees. Al-Dika wrote that he fainted an hour later, and when he regained consciousness, an officer told him, “Do you want to talk, or do you want to die?”

Al-Dika wrote that after that, he agreed to everything. “If they asked me whether I had killed the prophet, I would have said yes,” al-Dika wrote.


Indonesia: Draft Criminal Code Disastrous for Rights

LGBT activists protest the planned revision to Indonesia’s criminal code outside parliament in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 12, 2018.

© 2018 AP Photo

(Jakarta) – The Indonesian parliament should substantially revise the proposed new criminal code to meet international human rights standards, Human Rights Watch said today. The current bill contains articles that will violate the rights of women, religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as freedom of speech and association.

“Indonesia’s draft criminal code is disastrous not only for women and religious and gender minorities, but for all Indonesians,” said Andreas Harsono, senior Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Lawmakers should remove all the abusive articles before passing the law.”

Updating Indonesia’s criminal code, which dates back to the Dutch colonial era, has taken more than two decades. On September 15, 2019, a parliamentary task force finalized the 628-article bill. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill later in September.

A coalition of Indonesian civil society organizations has urged President Joko Widodo to delay passing the law because it will discriminate against non-Muslims, non-Sunni Muslims, and local religious minorities, as well as women and LGBT people.

Provisions of the draft criminal code violate free speech and freedom of association. The ability to engage in political speech, even speech espousing a peaceful political ideology that the government does not favor, lies at the heart of the democratic process.

Provisions that effectively censor the dissemination of information about contraception and criminalize some abortions will set back women and girls’ rights under international law to make their own choices about having children. Unintended pregnancies can affect a range of rights, including by ending a girl’s education and contributing to child marriage, as well as putting women and girls’ lives at risk and other health complications.

“The bill’s provisions censoring information about contraception could set back the progress Indonesia has made in recent years to dramatically reduce maternal deaths,” Harsono said.

The bill also expands Indonesia’s 1965 Blasphemy Law, which increases the enumeration of “the elements of crimes” to include defaming religious artifacts. Parliament should remove blasphemy offenses that are inconsistent with Indonesia’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Watch said.

“Indonesia’s parliament should be encouraging free speech and association, and limiting – not expanding – the Blasphemy Law,” Harsono said. “The new criminal code is a precious opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted to remove toxic laws from the books and build a better, rights-respecting Indonesia.”

Problematic Provisions in the Draft Criminal Code

Article 2 recognizes “any living law” in Indonesia, which could be interpreted to include hukum adat (customary criminal law) and Sharia (Islamic law) regulations at the local level. Indonesia has hundreds of discriminatory Sharia and other regulations that discriminate against women, religious minorities, and LGBT people. As there is no official list of “living laws” in Indonesia, this article could be used to prosecute people under these discriminatory regulations.

Article 417 punishes extramarital sex by up to one year in jail. (The current code says only that married couples can be prosecuted for extramarital sex based on police complaints by their spouse or children.) While this article does not specifically mention same-sex conduct, since same-sex relationships are not legally recognized in Indonesia, this provision effectively criminalizes all same-sex conduct. It will also subject all sex workers to criminal prosecution.

Article 419 states that couples who live together without being legally married could be sentenced to six months in prison. A village head could report these couples to the police.

Article 421 criminalizes “obscene acts” in public with a penalty of up to six months in prison. This article could be used to target LGBT people.

Articles 417, 419, and 421 violate the right to privacy for consenting adults that is protected under international law. Such provisions can reinforce or exacerbate discriminatory social norms and have heightened impact on women, who may face pressure to enter forced marriages if accused of sex outside of marriage or an increase in societal “policing” of their behavior.

These articles could also be used to target religious minorities and the millions of Indonesians – some estimates suggest as many as half of all Indonesian couples – who do not marry legally because of difficulties in registering the marriage. They include members of hundreds of unrecognized religions including Baha’i, Ahmadi, and local religions, as well as people in remote regencies and islands.

Article 413 criminalizes the production or distribution of pornography, which is poorly defined under existing law. As Human Rights Watch has documented, the 2008 Law on Pornography, which defines portrayals of “deviant sexual intercourse” to include lesbian and male homosexual sex, has been used for discriminatory targeting of LGBT people.

Article 414 states that anyone who is “to show, to offer, to broadcast, to write or to promote a contraception to a minor” – children under age 18 – could face a prison term or fine.

Article 416 specifies some narrow exceptions for health professionals and authorized “competent volunteers” to discuss contraception in the context of family planning, preventing sexually transmitted infections, or providing health education.

While the exceptions are notable, the overall chilling effect of article 414 will diminish free exchange of vital health information, including by teachers, parents, the media, and community members, and will most likely impede even those who are officially exempted from the law.

Sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS can be largely prevented by regularly using condoms, and interfering with people’s ability to get information about condoms impedes their rights to life and health.

Human Rights Watch has documented that restricted access to condoms has particular impacts on marginalized groups – such as men who have sex with men and female sex workers and their clients – who already shoulder most of the burden of Indonesia’s HIV epidemic.

Articles 415, 470, and 471 state that only doctors have the right to decide to perform an abortion. This conflicts with the 2009 Health Law, which says a woman can seek an abortion in “a medical emergency,” which could be interpreted to include health reasons or rape. A woman who aborted her pregnancy could be sentenced to up four years in prison. Anyone who helps a pregnant woman have an abortion could be sentenced up to five years in prison. These articles might also be interpreted to prosecute those selling or consuming so-called morning-after pills as an abortion tool, with up to a six-month jail term.

Human Rights Watch research in several countries has shown that criminalizing abortion impedes rights protected under international law, including to life, health, freedom from torture and degrading treatment, privacy, and to determine the number and spacing of children.

Articles 304 to 309 expand the current Blasphemy Law and maintain the maximum five-year prison term. They will punish deviations from the central tenets of Indonesia’s six officially recognized religions – Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. More than 150 individuals, most of them religious minorities, have been convicted under the Blasphemy Law since it was passed in 1965, including former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Purnama, a Christian, in 2017.

Article 118 imposes up to a four-year prison sentence on anyone who spreads Marxist-Leninist teachings.

Article 119 authorizes a 10-year sentence for associating with organizations that follow a Marxist-Leninist ideology “with the intent of changing the policy of the government.”

Article 219 criminalizes “insults” to the president or vice president.

Article 220 limits, but not sufficiently, application of the law to cases filed by the president or vice president.

Under international human rights law, restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and association are only permitted to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation and must ensure that any measure taken under the law is strictly proportionate to the aim pursued.

Laws penalizing criticism of public leaders are contrary to international law. Public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority, may be subject to criticism, and the fact that some forms of expression are considered to be insulting is not sufficient to justify restrictions or penalties.