Concerns are raised by Indonesia's new criminal code

JAKARTA: A long-awaited update to Indonesia's criminal code was approved by lawmakers on Tuesday. Critics claim the sweeping changes are a serious blow to the country's human rights and freedom of expression.

Three years after President Joko Widodo scrapped a similar draft law amid widespread protests by thousands of youths who claimed the law threatened their civil liberties, new rules were unanimously approved by Indonesia's House of Representatives. went.

The new penal code, which also regulates visitors from other countries, reinstates a prohibition against insulting the president, government agencies, or Pancasila, Indonesia's original national ideology.

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Law and Human Rights Minister, Yasona Laoli, said before the legislature, "We have done our best to accommodate the important issues and different opinions that were debated." To leave the colonial criminal code we inherited in the past, the time has come for us to take a historic decision regarding the Penal Code Amendment.

Lawmakers in the world's largest Muslim-majority country struggled to adapt the penal code to native culture and norms, an amendment to the criminal code that dates back to the Dutch colonial era that had lain dormant for decades.

The transition period is set for a maximum of three years, and the new criminal code will not take effect until the president signs it after ratifying it and creating written implementation rules. The Constitutional Court is another place to fight it.

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The new laws, according to critics, would limit free speech as they require police permits for all public demonstrations; Without one, protesters risk up to six months in jail.

Tunggal Pavestri, a gender rights activist and executive director of the Hivos Foundation, told Arab News that the criminal code was still heavily influenced by colonialism and contained several articles that threatened civil liberties and constrained democratic spaces.

Since widespread protests against the bill in 2019 when opponents claimed the legislative process lacked transparency and contained provisions that discriminated against minorities, Pavestri acknowledged that some progress had been made.

"We believe this was not their best effort, even though they said they were open and tried to incorporate input from the larger civil society," Pavestri continued. "We've been shouting and contributing, but it's as if they didn't hear us."

Major newspapers criticized the new laws in editorials, including the daily Quran Tempo, which claimed the code had "authoritarian" overtones and could one day lead to a "disaster".

The new legal provisions are "repressive," according to Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, because they allow for "invasion of privacy and selective enforcement that allow bribery of police and officials to harass and imprison political opponents." will enable."

According to Robertson speaking to Arab News, Indonesia's human rights situation has suddenly deteriorated.

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"There is no doubt that the adoption of this criminal code marks the beginning of a disastrous deterioration in Indonesia's human rights situation. The government and parliamentarians should immediately reconsider this decision, repeal this law and start afresh .

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