Rights Group Calls for Halt to Indonesia’s State Secrecy Bill
Markus Junianto Sihaloho
A leading human rights group continued to rail against a contentious state secrecy bill on Thursday, with outrage focused on an article that would hand down the death penalty for those who leak information the state deems to be secret during times of war.
Rusdi Marpaung, the executive director of Imparsial, urged the House of Representatives to postpone consideration of the bill, saying the article would fly in the face of Indonesia’s commitment to human rights, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the country is a signatory.
“It stipulates that people’s right to live is inviolable,” Marpaung said. “Which means that the death penalty cannot be justified for use in our criminal justice system.”
The UN treaty, however, makes an exception for countries considering execution for prisoners convicted of serious crimes — of a military nature — during times of war.
The new bill draft stipulates that any unauthorized personal who are found to have knowledge of secret information could be sentenced to a minimum of 4 years in prison and required to pay a maximum fine of Rp 5 billion ($505,000). The draft would also criminalize possession, repetition, photographing, recording or otherwise spying in connection with any information, object or activity that has been defined as a state secret. The bill declares that leaking secrets could threaten the sovereignty or safety of the state.
Marpaung said the bill would also threaten press freedom and hamper efforts to improve governance and combat corruption. “Some officials would get an open opportunity to act with impunity under the current draft of the bill,” he said. “For example, the lifespan of a state secret would be set at 25 years, which means that no one could be brought to trial” for laws that may have been broken in connection with such secrets.