The Vulnerable Environmental Human Rights Defender


On 13 December 2018, in the middle of victim’s testimony sessions’s on 20th commemoration event of the declaration on human right defender, an old human rights activist announce the news. The panel of judges of Cibinong District Court, she said in microphone, has rejected the exception (eksepsi) of Nur Alam against Basuki Wasis–an environmental scholar who was the expert witness on the previous trial of the corruption convict. The magical moment happened. The gloomy atmosphere on the forum which was swinging around the terrible experience stories of human right defenders and the stressful respond of the police general as state representation vanished. The victory smile of Antoine Griezmann after the peak match of world cup 2016 appeared in the faces of participants.

That scene maybe looks like odds. There are no special things in the rejection of the panel of judges in the district court. In the South Jakarta District Court, for instance, we can find a similar rejection in the case directory at least 9000 cases just with typing two words: penolakan eksepsi.  Still, this rejection comes from the most worrying issue in the human rights activist circle, especially the environmental domain, in recent years: the assault on Environmental Human Rights Defender (EHRD).

It is not the exaggerate worrying. Within the past year, the news about the killings, the persecution, until the lawsuit on EHRDs is rising in the huge quantity. After our public shocked with the news of the brutal murder on Salim Kancil, environment activist in Lumajang on 2015, the similar story on the violence on EHRDs almost routinely appears in mass media publication. It causes a significant amount of EHRDs to become a victim. But for many activists, the case of Basuki Wasis has been considered the most harmful. After this case, one question on how to anticipate the worst future on the environmental struggle appeared.

And as we then saw, resistance efforts from all directions to fight all kinds of violence against EHRDs is being fanned out.

In Indonesia, since the United Nations Human Rights Council (UHRC) issued a mandate on the resolution of Human Rights and Environment 19/10 in March 2012, the consolidation of resistance on the human rights violation on EHRDs had never been at this level. It seemed from the increasing number of street actions, campaign on social media, and focus group discussion (FGD) held on the theme of EHRD.

But one thing that is immediately apparent: There is no research, both conducted by universities in Indonesia and NGOs, enough to map the large number of attacks against EHRDs. What is the real situation faced by these fighters? The need for the data on the EHRD’s condition is urgent as a solid basis in every attempt to protect EHRD, both as campaign material and litigation.

Answering this lack, as a contribution to efforts to promote the protection of EHRD, ELSAM conducted research on the situation of EHRD¬† in Indonesia. The initial research report from this work, entitled “Under the Shadow of State and Company Violence: Situation Report on Human Rights Defenders of the Environment for the November 2017-July 2018 period, was published in September 2018 with a kind of positive responses from civil society networks. Nevertheless, we have received some input, as well as complaints, from the same network that the report requires packaging that is easier to be consumed by the public. Eventually, then ELSAM made this infographic which originated from the data in the initial report. Enjoy it.



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