Indonesia: Support Letter for Ms. Veronica Koman | Joint Letter

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Veronica Koman, human rights lawyer

LRWC and L4L sent a joint letter calling on Indonesian authorities to withdraw criminal charges against human rights lawyer Veronica Koman, charged for disseminating information about police violence against Papuan students peacefully protesting for Papuan self-determination. The letter was sent to the Ministers of Political, Legal and Security Affairs, of Law and Human Rights and of Immigration along with the President and the Police Chief for the East Java region.

The President of the Republic of Indonesia
His Excellency Mr. Ir. Joko Widodo
Jl. Veteran No. 16
Jakarta Pusat

Amsterdam, 12 September 2019

Subject: Support Letter Ms. Veronica Koman

Your Excellency,

Lawyers for Lawyers (“L4L”) is an independent and non-political Dutch foundation that seeks to promote the proper functioning of the rule of law by pursuing freedom and independence of the legal profession. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (“LRWC”) is a committee of lawyers and others who promote international human rights through advocacy, legal research and education.

L4L and LRWC write to express their concern about the police charges against Ms. Veronica Koman.

Veronica Koman is a prominent, independent human rights lawyer who previously worked as a public interest lawyer at the Legal Aid Institute (LBH) in Jakarta. LBH provides legal aid to the poor and marginalized people in Indonesia. Specifically, Veronica Koman has specialized in defending the rights of international refugees, women & LGBTIQs and West Papuans.

In previous years, Veronica Koman received multiple (death and rape) threats for defending the rights of accused persons in high-profile political cases, among which three legal cases involving Papuan indigenous people who were accused of separatism.

On or around 17 August 2019, a Papuan student dormitory in Surabaya was raided by East Java police personnel after claims that a Papuan individual had thrown an Indonesian flag in the sewer. L4L and LRWC were informed that, while angry bystanders were blocking the accommodation and yelling discriminatory phrases towards the Papuan students, police personnel raided and fired teargas into their premises, allegedly confiscating properties, injuring students and humiliating them. After that, the police took 43 students of Papuan origin into custody at the East Java police station, without informing them in advance of the criminal complaint against them.

According to our information, following preliminary hearings on 3 September 2019, the East Java Police decided to file criminal charges against Veronica Koman for disseminating information about the violent attack against the Papuan students via social media. L4L and LRWC understand that Veronica Koman is accused of four criminal offenses relating to provoking citizens via Twitter by giving out information surrounding the recent protests and riots in the aftermath of the raid of the Papuan student dormitory in Surabaya. Also, Veronica Koman is facing multiple death and rape threats again. On 5 September, Veronica Koman was allegedly charged with “incitement” under provisions of the Electronic Information and Transaction (ITE), Article 160 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code and Law No. 40 of 2008 on the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination. Moreover, L4L and LRWC were informed about an intention of Indonesian authorities to initiate additional domestic and international measures to restrict her liberty and her professional activities as a lawyer.

L4L and LRWC observe that Articles in the Indonesian Criminal Code and ITE Law are frequently used to criminalize the right to freedom of expression of Indonesian citizens. We have reason to believe that the criminal charges filed against Veronica Koman are connected to her legitimate activities as a lawyer. Moreover, these charges interfere with the fundamental right to legal counsel for people whose human rights may have been violated by Indonesian security personnel. Therefore, any obstruction to the professional activities of Veronica Koman as the legal representative of Papuan people is a violation of their right to a fair trial.

Lawyers play a fundamental role in defending human rights by providing independent legal services. It is of vital importance that all cases of violence against them are condemned, investigated and that those responsible are held accountable. Failing to do so has a chilling effect on society as lawyers are unable to properly defend their clients, and may become reluctant to take on sensitive human rights cases.

Both national laws and international standards require the Indonesian government and its representatives to protect lawyers in the execution of their profession. In her capacity of lawyer, Veronica Koman is protected by the Indonesian Law on Lawyers (Undang-Undang Nomor 18 Tahun 2003) and the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. [1]

In particular, Article 15 of Indonesian Law No. 18 / 2003 establishes that a lawyer shall be free to perform his professional task of defending a case that has become his/her responsibility while respecting the professional ethics code and prevailing laws and regulations.

16. Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference (…)( b ) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad;

17. Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.

23. Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. In exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.

On Indonesia, as a member of the United Nations, rests the obligation to ensure the protection of these rights and the observance of these principles.

In view of the above, L4L and LRWC respectfully urge you to:

  • Immediately drop all criminal charges against lawyer Ms. Koman and terminate any investigation and other measures to restrict her liberty;
  • ensure the protection of Ms. Koman and guarantee in all circumstances that lawyers in Indonesia are able to practice law without threat, intimidation, hindrance, (judicial) harassment, improper interference or reprisals;
  • respect the fundamental right to freedom of expression and special position of lawyers to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights.

We thank you for your attention to this very important matter. We are confident of your good will and sense of justice and will continue to monitor this case closely.

Yours sincerely,

Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L)
Sophie de Graaf, Executive Director

Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada
Gail Davidson, Executive Director

Letters concerning the same topic were sent to:

The Coordinating Ministry of Political, Legal and Security Affairs
Coordinating Minister Mr. Gen. Wiranto (Ret.)
Gedung B Lt. 3 (Kedeputian VII/Kominfotur)
Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat No. 15
Jakarta Pusat 10110

Ministry of Law and Human Rights
Immigration Department
Director-General of Immigration
Dr. Ronny Frengky Sompie, S.H., M.H.
Jl. HR. Rasuna Said kav 6-7 Kuningan
Jakarta Selatan, DKI Jakarta

Police Chief of East Java Region
Mr. Irjen. Pol. Drs. Luki Hermawan, M.Si.
Polisi Daerah Jawa Timur
Jalan Ahmad Yani 116
Surabaya 60235

Copies of this letter were sent to:

The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission,
Mr. Drs. Ahmad Taufan Damanik M.A.
Sent by email

The Chairman of the National Ombudsman Commission,
Prof. Amzulian Rifai, S.H., LLM, Ph.D
Sent by email

The Chairman of the Indonesian Bar Association (PERADI),
Mr. Dr. H. Fauzie Yusuf Hasibuan, S.H., M.H.
Sent by email

The Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations, his Excellency
Mr. Dian Triansyah Djani
Sent by email

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Ms. Michelle Bachelet
Sent by email

The Secretary General of Interpol, Mr. Jürgen Stock
Sent by email

The Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator the Hon Ms. Marise Payne
Sent by email

The Australian Minister of Home Affairs, the Hon Mr. Peter Dutton, MP
Sent by email

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Drs. Stef Blok
Sent by email

The Dutch Ambassador in Jakarta, Mr. Drs. Lambert Grijns
Sent by email

[1] The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers provide a concise description of international norms relating to the key aspects of the right to independent counsel. / Prinsip Dasar PBB mengenai Peran Advokat memberikan penjelasan ringkas mengenai norma internasional sehubungan dengan aspek penting mengenai hak-hak untuk memperoleh nasihat hukum yang independen.