Indonesian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Forests finds rights unprotected and recommends recognition

National Inquiry on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the Territories in the Forest Zone

Indonesian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Forests finds rights unprotected and recommends recognition

INDONESIA: KomNasHAM, the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, just issued an English summary of its recent National Inquiry on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the Territories in the Forest Zone. Based on legal review, extensive testimony heard through seven hearings in all parts of the country and in depth investigation of 47 cases, the Inquiry found that despite Constitutional guarantees of the rights of the country’s indigenous peoples, these rights are systematically denied.

The Inquiry traces the problem back to the imposition of forestry laws in the 1970 which classed 70% of the national territory as forests and denied the prior rights of the indigenous peoples. Instead their lands have been handed out to corporations as logging concessions, timber plantations, mining licences or converted into non-forest lands to allow agricultural plantations (like oil palm). Government policies favouring large-scale land development also underlie these widespread pattern of violations of human rights. Less than 0.4% of the 126 m hectares of the forest estate has been granted to local communities to manage.

As a result the people suffer loss of rights, forced evictions, persecution and loss of livelihoods. Indigenous women suffer disproportionately. When the indigenous peoples protest, they face further discrimination by State agencies and heavy-handed actions by the security forces, which defend corporate interests rather than the indigenous peoples’ rights. The problem is compounded by lack of access to the courts or judicial remedies for victims. Meanwhile the number of complaints about land rights violations made to the Commission itself have doubled in the past 4 years.

The need for an overhaul of the laws to secure indigenous peoples’ rights has been recognised by the legislature since the late 1990s. The Ministry of Environment and Forests and National Statistical Office does now recognise that some 32,000 administrative villages overlap the forest zone. A ruling by the Constitutional Court in 2012 that customary forests should not be considered State forests now opens the door to much needed reforms. A final section of the Inquiry’s report is thus dedicated to detailed recommendations of the urgent reforms needed by the legislature, the Presidency, the line Ministries, local government and security forces.