The two hats of public security actors in Indonesia: protecting human rights or preserving business interests?

Publication date: 13 Jun 2017 Organization: SOMO

This report presents the results of a research project on the role of state and private security actors in human rights violations in the extractive industry in Indonesia. While legal and policy frameworks are based on a clear distinction between public and private security actors and functions, the reality on the ground in Indonesia reveals that both the military and police are engaged in the commercialisation of security services. In fact, they often play a role alongside private security companies (mainly local, though there is some evidence of a growing international presence) and the security personnel of companies engaged in agribusiness and extractive industries. This has led to serious human rights violations of indigenous peoples and other local inhabitants, who often find themselves entangled in protracted conflicts with multinational companies over access to their land.

This report includes the results of two case studies: one on palm oil company Asiatic Persada, owned by the Ganda Group, and one on logging company Wirakarya Sakti, owned by the Sinar Mas Group, both Indonesian multinationals. These two case studies, which involved fieldwork in Sumatra in July and August 2016, reveal a pernicious and deliberate erosion and violation of rights of local inhabitants across the spectrum of security actors, showing that public security actors are protecting corporate interests rather than performing public functions. The implications of these findings are considered in terms of legal responsibilities as well as access to justice, highlighting some of the challenges of non-judicial grievance mechanisms such as the IFC’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman and the RSPO Complaints Mechanism. The report ends with a call for necessary legal and policy changes.

The research was carried out in a consortium consisting of the University of Nottingham (Nottingham International Law & Security Centre), SOMO and Inkrispena. It was funded by NWO/WOTRO as part of the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law, under the call for applied research on the influence of transnational challenges in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings.

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