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Amnesty Urgent Actions
Startseite Urgent Actions 2021 02 Farmers detained amid conservation work
UA 023/21
Indonesia
Aktiv seit 22. Februar 2021 | Noch 47 Tage Laufzeit
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Positive developments

25.2.2021

Syamsul (Samsul) Bahri and Samsir were released on bail by the Langkat Regency Police Chief Adj. Comr. Sr. Edi Suranta Sinulingga on 24 February, as per a request filed on 12 February. The two men have since returned home, on the condition that they report to the Langkat Regency Police twice a week and are available to appear when next required by the police.

It is important that we continue to take action through the UA as our call for the police to release and drop the charges against Syamsul (Samsul) Bahri and Samsir have not yet been achieved. The pair remain suspects for the alleged assault allegations, and their lawyers are currently discussing next steps. We will be sure to let you know of any changes to calls or strategy in the coming weeks.

Criminalization of environmental human rights defenders must end, and authorities must ensure that they are able to carry out their peaceful activities without any fear of harassment, intimidation, arbitrary detention or imprisonment, brought about by the state or economic actors.

We thank everyone for taking action and hope for continued efforts in amplifying the call. This positive development proves that international pressure is working and will always be key to call out injustice!

Thank you in advance for your continued action.

Farmers detained amid conservation work

AI-Index: ASA 21/3728/2021

Samsul Bahri and Samsir, father and son from a farmer community in North Sumatra province, have been detained since 10 February 2021 in what is feared to be spurious charges. Advocates have labelled their arrest as a form of criminalization that specifically aims to stifle the farmers’ work in rehabilitating a mangrove forest in the area and their work to claim their rights to land. Environmental human rights defenders in Indonesia are among the most persecuted activists in the country. Many continue to face intimidation, threats, and accusations that appear to be used to undermine their activities.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

In late 2017, the government granted the Nipah Farmer community the right to manage a 242-hectare land in Kwala Serapuh Village, North Sumatra province, for sustainable use under a social forestry permit. The community has since then been working to rehabilitate mangrove forests in this area. The community is protesting the operation of a palm oil company that owns a plantation on land the community claims the right to manage.

The accusation filed against Samsul Bahri and Samsir dates to a case in December 2020 while members of the Nipah Farmer community were working on an environmental rehabilitation project on the land they manage under the social forestry scheme. According to witness testimonies collected by local NGOs, including WALHI North Sumatra, LBH Medan, and Srikandi Lestari, two people arrived at the site on 18 December and took pictures of their activities.

Samsul Bahri, the community’s chairman, questioned the two individuals on their intention of visiting the area. Afterwards, one of the individuals walked away and called his friend saying that he was «being beaten up» in a loud voice so that others could hear, before jumping into the river. The Nipah Famer community quickly rescued him with a boat and took him to safety before asking him to clarify the statement he had previously made in the call. The individual then said that he was not being beaten up by any of the community members and his statement was recorded in a video by a member of the community. The man’s friend came to pick him up not long after.

Almost two months later, on 8 February 2021, Samsul Bahri and Samsir received a letter of summons by the Tanjung Pura Police to appear for questioning on 10 February as suspects regarding allegations brought by one of the menwho had filed a report to the police stating that Samsul and other farmers assaulted him on 18 December 2020. The two were charged under Article 170 of the Criminal Code on group violence. The dubious charges against the pair have raised questions since Samsul and Samsir had never been questioned as witnesses or asked to comment on the report before. The pair have been detained since 10 February.

Local NGOs who advocate for the case believe the arrest to be based on false accusations against Samsul Bahri and Samsir and to be a form of criminalization aimed to stifle the community’s work in conserving the mangrove forests and claiming their rights to land. In a statement to the coalition of NGOs, Langkat Regency Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Edi Suranta Sinulingga denied concerns over criminalization and claimed the police have collected evidence over the assault.

Environmental human rights defenders in Indonesia who work to protect and promote environmental rights and those linked to access to land are increasingly harassed and criminalized when state and economic actors perceive their activities as a hindrance to the implementation of development policies. One of the most notable cases of criminalization occurred in 2017 with the sentencing of environmental activist Heri Budiawan, also known as Budi Pego, to four years in prison for spreading communism in relation to his work to protest gold mining activities in Tumpang Pitu, Banyuwangi, East Java province. In 2020, Amnesty International recorded the arrest, attack, and intimidation of at least 202 human rights defenders in Indonesia, including environmental activists who defended their rights to land and a healthy environment.

 

Take action

  • Write an appeal in your own words or use the model letter below.
  • Please take action before 22 April 2021.
  • Preferred language: Bahasa Indonesia, English. You can also write in your own language.
  • INFO COVID-19: Mail delivery
    It is possible to send PRIORITY letters to almost all countries. Please check on the Website of the Swiss Post, in the Transit restrictions whether letters are currently being delivered to the destination country. If not, we ask you to use other communication channels - email, fax or social media, if available - for the delivery of your appeal and/or send it via the embassy with the request for forwarding to the named person.

Model letter

Dear Langkat Regency Police Chief,

I am writing to express my concern about the detention of Samsul Bahri and Samsir, a father and son, from the Nipah Farmer community. I fear that this case has in fact added to the long list of acts of harassment and criminalization against environmental human rights defenders in Indonesia, who have been among the most persecuted activists in the country. Many continue to face intimidation, threats, and accusations that appeared to be used to undermine their activities.

Samsul Bahri and Samsir were summoned by the police on 8 February 2021, as assault suspects following an accusation of violence by a man who witnesses state had fabricated the incident. On 10 February, despite not being questioned as witnesses or asked to comment on the report filed, they were then detained. I find this situation troubling, especially within the context of their work as human rights defenders claiming their rights to land. Information obtained by Amnesty International said Samsul Bahri is now unwell in detention due to diabetes and cholesterol and requires regular medication.

Samsul Bahri and Samsir are environmental human rights defenders who peacefully strive to protect and promote human rights by rehabilitating a swath of mangrove forest to conserve the ecosystem in the area. Their criminalization is not only a violation of their rights, but also threatens the work and the rights of all human rights defenders in the country. It also has negative impacts on the entire community, including on their right to a healthy environment. Instead of being persecuted for their efforts, they should be protected as in accordance with Article 66 of Law No. 32/2009 on the Environment, which stipulates that «every person who defends the right to a good and healthy environment shall not be prosecuted by criminal or civil offence».”

Therefore, I urge you to:
- Release Samsul Bahri and Samsir and drop the charges against them unless there is sufficient credible and admissible evidence that they have committed an internationally recognized offence and are granted a fair trial in line with international standards;
- Ensure that Samsul Bahri and Samsir have regular, unrestricted access to a lawyer of their choice and are not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, and are provided access to healthcare and medical treatment if they require it;
- Take effective measures to ensure that all human rights defenders and their families, including the Nipah Farmer community, can carry out their peaceful activities without fear of harassment,  intimidation, arbitrary detention or imprisonment, in line with Article 66 of Law No. 32/2009.

Yours sincerely,

Appeals to

Adj. Sr. Comr. Edi Suranta Sinulingga
Langkat Regency Police Chief
Jl. Proklamasi No 53, Stabat,
Langkat Regency, North Sumatra,
Indonesia (20814)

Email: langkatpolres@gmail.com

 

 

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