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Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly; however, the Government restricted this right in certain areas. The law requires that persons planning to hold a demonstration notify police 3 days in advance and appoint someone accountable for every 100 demonstrators. The law generally does not require permits for public social, cultural, or religious gatherings; however, any gathering of five or more persons related to political, labor, or public policy required police notification (see Section 6.a.).
Police used excessive force at a number of demonstrations during the year (see Section 1.c.). For example, on February 26 in Bandung, West Java, police forcibly dispersed a demonstration outside a government building and many students reportedly sustained head injuries. Journalists were also injured (see Section 2.a.).
In Aceh, the security forces interfered with or shut down a number of public rallies, ostensibly for a lack of proper permits. For example, on January 9, police physically prevented thousands of civilians from attending a rally demanding the withdrawal of the security forces from the province. At one point, Brimob officers fired warning shots; four demonstrators were injured, two seriously. Although the shootings appeared to be accidental, police later charged two speakers at the rally with "spreading hatred." One of those charged, Muhammad Nazar, was convicted and sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment (see Section 4). The other, Kautsar, fled prosecution and remained at large at year's end.
On some occasions, counter-protestors violated the right to peaceful assembly. For example, on March 20 in Malang, East Java, members of an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) youth group attacked students from various universities who were calling on the President and Vice President to resign. The violence resulted in 31 injuries, 6 of them serious.
The Government did not report any progress in prosecuting those responsible for the September 2002 forcible dispersal by Jakarta police of participants in a massive rally against the reelection of Governor Sutiyoso. Similarly, no arrests were made in connection with the distribution of food containing cyanide at the same rally. In addition, no arrests were made over the May 2002 attack in the Central Java city of Semarang on two anti-poverty activists by persons who claimed to be members of the ruling PDI-P.
The Constitution provides for freedom of association; however, the Government restricted the exercise of this right. Although the Papua Special Autonomy Law permits the flying of a flag symbolizing Papua's cultural identity, the police prohibited the flying of the Papuan Morning Star flag. There were unconfirmed reports that on July 7 in Wamena, police shot and killed one person, whose name was not released, for attempting to raise the Morning Star flag in front of a government office. In related incidents, police removed such flags at numerous locations and continued their crackdown against Papuan nationalist T-shirts, stickers, bracelets, and other items they felt were associated with the separatist movement. In September, police reportedly carried out a "sweep" for such accessories in the Central Papuan Highlands city of Wamena.
The security forces continued to enforce a prohibition on the flying of the GAM flag. In July, Aceh's Governor instructed all Acehnese to fly the Indonesian national flag from July 8 to September 1, and residents who displayed a worn or tattered one were reportedly ordered to buy a new one. The flying of the red-and-white national flag was seen as a test of their loyalty to the state and their rejection of the separatist movement. On May 21, 37 homes in the Bireuen subdistrict of Peusangan were reportedly burned for not displaying the national flag. Some human rights activists accused the Government of forcing civilians to take part in patriotic mass rallies, such as the June 17 event in Banda Aceh, in which 10,000 young persons declared their loyalty to the unitary state of Indonesia. Similar rallies were held in Aceh Besar, Pidie, Bireuen, North Aceh, and East Aceh.
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