Statement of Solidarity with Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI)
JOINT STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY BY THE LEGAL EMPOWERMENT NETWORK – SOUTHEAST ASIA ON YLBHI MEETING DISPERSAL
The right to freedom of expression and assembly, citizen’s participation, and the rule of law, are fundamental elements of a just society and a thriving civic space. The suppression of any of these freedoms is a violation of human rights.
On November 12, 2022, a group of people who claimed to be local village officials attempted to disband an internal meeting of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) board and regional officials in a villa in Sanur, Bali. They demanded that YLBHI members surrender their ID cards and checked their mobile phones and laptops. They also insisted on searching the villa. Tensions ran high when YLBHI refused and tried to negotiate with the non-uniformed officers intimidating them. YLBHI told them to bring all the participants to the police station to follow formal legal procedure, but they refused.
After two hours of high tension negotiations, however, some members of the YLBHI team were allowed to leave the villa on the condition that the other members of the team had to stay in the villa. Those who stayed in the villa were not allowed to leave the villa for 15 hours, and they had to send their ID card pictures to the local village officer.
It is evident that the reason behind the dispersal of the meeting is the G20 Summit in Bali hosted by the Indonesia government, where 20 of the most powerful countries in the world discussed global health architecture, sustainable energy transition, and digital transformation. The unknown group of people told YLBHI that activities were banned during the G20 Summit. The dispersal was unjustified, however, since in Bali Regional Regulation Circulating Letter No. 35425/SEKRET/2022 concerning the Enactment of Restrictions on Community Activities in the Context of Holding the G20 Presidency, the place where YLBHI conducted its activity was outside the area covered by the restrictions.
It is ironic that the G20 Summit tackled sustainable energy transition when the wealthiest of these G20 countries contribute the most to the climate change crisis, while the marginalized populations suffer the detrimental effects of natural disasters and environmental damage. The summit was also conducted in the middle of a vast repression of civil society activities which were discussing the advocacy against extractive companies and government regulation that adversely affected their land, environment, and right to life.
This intimidation and harassment of civil society organizations in Bali demonstrates the shrinking civic space in many Southeast Asia (SEA) countries and constitutes a direct attack on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. This also highlights the continuing threat to human rights defenders across the region.
We, the members of the Legal Empowerment Network-Southeast Asia (LEN-SEA), stand in solidarity with YLBHI in protecting their right to organize, assemble and express their legitimate dissent on issues that directly impact their communities. YLBHI is an active member of the Legal Empowerment Network, a community of grassroots justice defenders that is building a global movement for legal empowerment to collectively tackle justice challenges in Southeast Asia and other regions.
We urge the Indonesian government and other state leaders to create more space for civic engagement and strengthen people’s participation on key issues, uphold democracy, and prioritize people-centered solutions to the climate crisis.
Finally, we call on civil society organizations to hold the line, continue the fight, and stand together for a just and peaceful future for all.
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Dio Ashar Wicaksana (Indonesia Judicial Research Society), Indonesia
Sor.Rattanamanee Polkla (Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC)), Thailand
Atchara Chan-o-kul, Thailand
Ray Paolo Santiago (Ateneo Human Rights Center), Philippines
Grizelda Mayo-Anda (Environmental Legal Assistance Center), Philippines
Mary Claire Demaisip (KAISAHAN Solidarity Towards Agrarian Reform and Rural Development), Philippines
Sheila Grace Formento (Alternative Law Groups), Philippines
Rene Clemente (Alternative Law Groups), Philippines
Naiyana Thanawattho, Thailand
Maalini Ramalo (Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas (DHRRA)), Malaysia
Hui Ying Tham, Malaysia
Matthijs Ivo Niks, Thailand
Vuthy Sem, Cambodia
Jaycen Aligway (Alternative Law Groups), Philippines
Anna Liza Mones (Alternative Law Groups), Philippines
Maricel Almojuela Tolentino (KAISAHAN Solidarity Towards Agrarian Reform and Rural Development), Philippines
Kimberly Alvarez (KAISAHAN Solidarity Towards Agrarian Reform and Rural Development), Philippines
Anthony N. Marzan (KAISAHAN Solidarity Towards Agrarian Reform and Rural Development), Philippines
Gian Miko Arabejo (Alternative Law Groups), Philippines
Aimee Ongeso (Namati), Kenya
Poorvi Chitalkar (Namati), United States
Paolyel Onencan (Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO)), Uganda
Lossie Konneh (Young Africans Community Empowerment Initiative, Sierra Leone (YACEI-SL)), Sierra Leone
Mohammed Zanna (Physically Challenged Empowerment Initiatives Nigeria), Nigeria
Annette Mbogoh (Kituo cha Sheria), Kenya
Daizy Mae Soriano, Philippines
Erin Kitchell, United States