Indonesia: Asia Pulp and Paper security guards beat farmers’ union activist to death

Indonesia: Asia Pulp and Paper security guards beat farmers’ union activist to death

In the afternoon of Friday 27th February seven security personnel contracted to guard one of Asia Pulp and Paper’s Acacia plantations in the district of Tebo, Jambi Province on the island of Sumatra, beat, then abducted and killed an activist from a local farmers’ union. According to preliminary reports, the altercation occurred when the guards tried to prevent Mr Indra Pelani from entering the plantation.

According to witnesses, the guards set on Indra, a prominent local leader, beat him brutally about the head and ignored pleas from others to desist. While they ran off to get help and call the police, Indra was taken away by the guards. His body was found the next day, some seven kilometres away with bound hands and feet. After his body was taken to hospital, a preliminary examination showed that Indra had been further brutalised and stabbed and is presumed to have died from the injuries so caused.

Local NGOs and Forest Peoples Programme have strongly protested the events and have cancelled their planned participation in a meeting with APP scheduled for this week which, ironically, was to have examined APP’s new draft procedures on ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ and ‘Conflict Resolution’.

In its letter to APP sent today, FPP has called on the company ‘to fully collaborate in an immediate, impartial and inclusive investigation... Furthermore APP must give every assistance to local authorities to ensure the criminal prosecution of all persons accused of these crimes and meanwhile APP should suspend all staff from the security units implicated in this case and take steps to ensure they do not collude in destroying or fabricating evidence.’ APP has responded to the appeals by condemning the violence and suspending the security personnel implicated.

Marcus Colchester, FPP’s senior policy advisor, notes:

There is a serious problem in Indonesia with plantation companies that continue to treat the tens of millions of hectares of forestry and oil palm concessions as private fiefdoms in which the rule of law and observation of basic human rights are suspended. Incidents with ill-trained company security personnel and hired mobile police brigades (Brimob) are too common and require a robust response not just from the companies but also the government and judiciary. APP has been presenting itself as model company committed to reform but, as this case tragically reveals, adopting new policies in Jakarta is one thing, changing how staff and contactors actually perform on the ground is another. We welcome APP’s condemnation of the violence but also urge root and branch reforms to the way the company respects human rights both in its own plantations and among all its fibre suppliers.