Indonesian FlagNGO Law Monitor: Indonesia

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated 13 January 2015

Update: In late 2014, there was growing concern in Indonesia about the Electronic Information and Transactions Law (ITE), which threatens web commentators with up to six years in prison and large fines. Between 2008, when the law was passed, and October 14, 2014, more than 70 people had been charged under the ITE, with 40 of those cases brought in 2014. In addition, deliberations may resume on a State Secrecy Bill, which journalists believe will pose a threat to civil liberties and the freedom of information.

In addition, two Constitutional Court decisions on the Law on Societal Organizations were announced on December 23, 2014: Case No. 82/2013 submitted by Muhammadiyah Association and Case No. 3/2014 submitted by various NGOs and individuals. The Court acknowledged that the law restricts the freedom of association in the Constitution. However, citing Article 28(J) of the Constitution ("... every person shall have the duty to accept the restrictions established by law for the sole purposes of guaranteeing the recognition and respect of the rights and freedoms of others...") the Court ruled that the law is not excessive in nature and, thus, is constitutional. At the same time, however, the Court found several individual provisions of the law to be unconstitutional or “conditionally unconstitutional” (that is, depending on the way the provision is implemented). The details on the Court’s findings will soon be included in this report.


Civil society as an academic discourse is considerably new in Indonesia but the concept of having organized groups that strive for social and/or political purposes has been well recognized in Indonesia since the colonial time as a part of the independence movement. The struggle for independence started with the establishment of organizations, based on regions, religions and labor unions. The importance of such organizations continued after the nation’s declaration of independence on August 17, 1945.

From 1966 to 1998, however, civil society organizations (CSOs) were restricted by the authoritarian Suharto government. Freedom of association and freedom of expression were constrained by the regulatory framework. Law No. 8 of 1985 regarding Societal Organizations (in Indonesian: Organisasi Kemasyarakatan, often shortened as “Ormas” and often loosely translated as “Mass Organizations”) was set up by the Suharto administration to control civil society, together with other laws in a package known as the “Political Law Package of 1985.” The concept of “societal organization” introduced by this law was designed to create one organizational status for all types of interests - activity, profession, function or religion - so that it would be easier for the regime to control them. Given its background, the Law on Societal Organizations has strong controlling aspects. Based on the law, the government may dissolve a societal organization that conducts any activities that disturb security and order; receives donations from foreign institutions without the Government’s consent; or provides assistance to foreign institutions that may “harm the nation”. Furthermore, extra-legal measures, such as kidnappings and torture, targeting those who actively challenged the government put CSOs at great risk. [1] Few CSOs were active during that period.

The situation changed significantly after Suharto stepped down in May 1998. The freedoms of association and expression are now better protected. As Indonesia underwent constitutional amendment in 1999-2002, a set of human rights provisions mirroring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was inserted in the second amendment in August 2000. Further, on October 28, 2005, Indonesia ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides clear protection of fundamental freedoms. Since 1998, many important reforms have been introduced and supported by civil society, including the constitutional amendment of 1999-2002 and the ratification of ICCPR. After 1998, CSOs have also entered another phase in their relationship with the state. Beyond the ‘traditional’ way of being in opposition to the state, some CSOs work together with certain state institutions, such as the Supreme Court and the police, in conducting institutional reform projects.

Apart from the legal basis regarding the freedom of association and the freedom of expression that provides space for CSO activities, the status of legal entities or organizational forms for CSOs are regulated in different laws. There are two types of organizational forms for CSOs, namely the Association (Perkumpulan), which is membership-based, and the Foundation (Yayasan), which is not membership-based.

In addition, there is now Law No. 17 of 2013 on Societal Organizations (Organisasi Kemasyarakatan) replacing Law No. 8 of 1985 on Societal Organizations. Law No. 17 was enacted on July 22, 2013 and is intended to reinforce the role of the Ministry of Home Affairs to control CSOs, as this role was weakening after 1998. This Law regulates “all organizations founded and formed by the society voluntarily on the basis of shared aspiration, will, needs, interest, activity and purposes in order to participate in the development with the intention to achieve the objective of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia based on the Pancasila” (Article 1). Both Foundations and Associations fall under the category of “societal organizations with legal entity status,” while all other CSOs are categorized as societal organizations without legal entity status.” With the controlling authority over all types of CSOs given to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Law No. 17 of 2013 then stipulates a set of obligations and prohibitions for the NGOs, such as prohibition from propagating an ideology that conflicts with state principles (Pancasila) and from conducting activities that disrupt public order and well-being. Violations of such provisions might lead to the dissolution of the CSO. Furthermore, this Law provides discriminatory and excessive bureaucratic controls over international CSOs.

[1] Amnesty International, "Indonesia: Power and Impunity: Human Rights under the New Order", 1 September 1994, ASA 21/017/1994.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms Associations Foundations Societal Organizations (without legal entity status)
Registration Body Ministry of Law and Human Rights Ministry of Law and Human Rights Ministry of Home Affairs for national level organizations, Governor for provincial level organizations, Mayor/ head of Regency for City/Regency level, district head (camat) for organizations with simple structure.
Approximate Number 48,886 organizations registered at the Ministry of Law and Human Rights. However, these numbers do not reflect the type of the organization. 48,886 organizations registered at the Ministry of Law and Human Rights. However, these numbers do not reflect the type of the organization. 65,577 organizations registered at the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Barriers to Entry Complex procedures for foreign organizations seeking to operate in Indonesia. Barriers to establishment of foreign foundations, including required “safe” partnership with local foundation. Barriers to establishment of foreign foundations, including additional requirement to refrain from activities which "disrupt the stability and the unity“ of Indonesia or "disrupt diplomatic ties."
Also, excessive bureaucratic controls for foreign foundations, including requirements on residency and minimum assets allocated for the establishment of the organization (USD1 million for a foreign legal entity and USD100,000 for a foreign individual).
Barriers to Activities Insufficient legal and judicial protection for CSO human rights activists.
Establishment of GONGOs.
Insufficient legal and judicial protection for CSO human rights activists.
Establishment of GONGOs.
Insufficient legal and judicial protection for CSO human rights activists.
Establishment of GONGOs.
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy No legal barriers specifically against CSOs. Libel charges, however, have been brought against CSO activists. No legal barriers specifically against CSOs. Libel charges, however, have been brought against CSO activists. No legal barriers specifically against
CSOs. Libel charges, however, have been brought against CSO activists.
Barriers to International Contact No legal barriers Foreign foundations must have "diplomatic relations" with" Indonesia. None.
Barriers to Resources Associations not permitted to engage in economic activities. Foundations permitted to engage in economic activities only through corporate subsidiary. SOs permitted to engage in economic activities only through corporate subsidiary.
Barriers to Assembly Advance notification requirement, assemblies prohibited at government sites and transport stations, and excessive criminal penalties. Advance notification requirement, assemblies prohibited at government sites and transport stations, and excessive criminal penalties. Advance notification requirement, assemblies prohibited at government sites and transport stations, and excessive criminal penalties.

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Key Indicators

Population 253,609,643 (July 2014 est.)
Capital Jakarta
Type of Government Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 69.59 years;
Female: 74.88 years (2014 est.)
Literacy Rate Male: 95.6%
Female: 90.1% (2011 est.)
Religious Groups Muslim 87.2%, Christian 7%, Roman Catholic 2.9%, Hindu 1.7%, other 0.9% (includes Buddhist and Confucian), unspecified 0.4% (2010 est.)
Ethnic Groups Javanese 40.1%, Sundanese 15.5%, Malay 3.7%, Batak 3.6%, Madurese 3%, Betawi 2.9%, Minangkabau 2.7%, Buginese 2.7%, Bantenese 2%, Banjarese 1.7%, Balinese 1.7%, Acehnese 1.4%, Dayak 1.4%, Sasak 1.3%, Chinese 1.2%, other 15% (2010 est.)
GDP per capita $5,200 (2013 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2009.

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale 
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 108 (2014) 1 – 182
World Bank Rule of Law Index 36.49 (2013) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 48.82 (2013) 100 – 0
Transparency International 107 (2014) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Free
Political Rights: 2
Civil Liberties: 4 (2014)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
82 (2014) 177 – 1

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Legal Snapshot

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 2006
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) No --
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 2006
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR) No --
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1999
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1984
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women No 2000
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1990
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) No --
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes --

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The prevailing Constitution of Indonesia is the 1945 Constitution, which was amended in 1999-2002. The second amendment to the 1945 Constitution guarantees the freedom of association (Article 28) and freedom of expression (Article 28E section (3)). These provisions read as follows:

Article 28. The liberties of association and assembly, the freedom of thought expressed verbally or in writing and similar rights, are to be determined by law.

Article 28E.

  1. Each person is free to worship and to practice the religion of his choice, to choose education and schooling, his occupation, his nationality, his residency in the territory of the country that he shall be able to leave and to which he shall have the right to return.
  2. Each person has the right to be free in his convictions, to assert his thoughts and tenets, in accordance with his conscience.
  3. Each person has the right to freely associate, assemble, and express his opinions.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:

[2] Article 1653 of Chapter 9 of the Third Book of the Civil Code is generally regarded as the source of Indonesia’s non-profit legal forms -- the foundation and association.

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

Pending legislative initiatives include the following:

  • The Bill regarding Associations was initiated by the Ministry of Law and Human Rights and is backed by CSOs and scholars. The Bill is on the list of the National Legislation Program of 2010-2014, but the House of Representatives and the Government have not set the date for deliberation. [In Indonesia bills are deliberated by the House of Representatives and the government mutually to reach “joint approval.” The deliberation is based on the five-year National Legislation Program set up in the beginning of the House members’ terms of office. The actual deliberation date would be decided each year in the Annual Legislation Program based on the long list of bills on the five-year program.]
  • The States Secrecy Bill has since 2009 been discussed in parliament, and in late 2014 it was reportedly again being discussed. The State Secrecy Bill is seen to pose a threat to civil liberties and the freedom of information for the following reasons: first, the term state secret is so broadly defined that it covers information, objects and activities; second, state secrets are largely under the management and supervision of executive bodies, which causes concern about the difficulties that parliament will face in ensuring the checks and balances of executive bodies; and, third, there is concern about the bill being manipulated as an 'instrument' to criminalize the public, primarily the mass media.
  • The Bill on Civil Society Organizations has been prepared to replace the Law on Societal Organizations. The Bill was presented by the Ministry of Home Affairs to the House of Representatives Committee, but the Committee, backed by CSOs, rejected the proposal. Nonetheless, as the new house members started their work in 2009, the Bill has been placed back on the list of the National Legislation Program of 2010-2014, although the starting date for its deliberation has not been decided.
  • The Bill on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders was proposed by a coalition of CSOs working on human rights issues and adopted by the House of Representatives as a House-initiated Bill. It has been put in the National Legislation Program of 2010-2014, but the deliberation date has not been determined.
  • The Ministry of Law and Human Rights is preparing the draft Government Regulation (Peraturan Pemerintah) on the Implementation of Social Welfare (Penyelenggaraan Kesejahteraan Sosial). The draft Government Regulation is intended to help implement Law No. 11 of 2009 on Social Welfare (Kesejahteraan Sosial). In the draft Regulation, CSOs that engage in social welfare activity are required to register with the Ministry of Social Affairs. Foreign CSOs are also required to obtain permits from the Minister of Foreign Affairs before applying to the Ministry of Social Affairs.
  • In order to implement Law No. 17 of 2013 on Societal Organizations (the Ormas Law, enacted in July 2013), the Government of Indonesia must issue six sets of implementing regulations. None of the six have yet been issued.  They include:
    • On the Registration of Societal Organizations without Legal Entity Status;
    • On the Empowerment of the Societal Organizations;
    • On the Procedure to Issue Permit for Societal Organizations Founded by Foreigners;
    • On the information management system;
    • On the procedure to supervise societal organizations; and
    • On the procedure to sanction Societal Organizations.

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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

There are two types of legal entities for CSOs, namely the association and foundation.
Foundations are regulated by Law No. 16 of 2001, as amended by Law No. 28 of 2004 (“Law on Foundation”). A foundation is defined as a non-membership legal entity, established based on the separation of assets, and intended as a vehicle for attaining certain purposes in the social, religious, or humanitarian fields.

Associations are governed by the Dutch Colonial Government inherited law that is still valid, namely Staatsblad 1870-64 (Dutch Colonial State Gazette) on Associations with Legal Person Status. There are two types of associations in Indonesia: (1) incorporated associations, which possess legal personality; and (2) ordinary associations, which do not. An important characteristic of an association that is distinct from a foundation is membership. An association is a member-based organization, whereas a foundation does not have members but is required by the Law on Foundations to have three organs: the Governing Board (Badan Pembina), Supervisory Board (Badan Pengawas), and Executive Board (Badan Pengurus).

Law No. 17 of 2013 on Societal Organizations provides that there are two types of CSOs, namely (1) the ones with legal entity, which consist of Foundations and Associations; and (2) societal organizations without legal entity status, which include any organizations set up by civil society. The registration status as a Societal Organization is obtained automatically by a Foundation or an Association when the legal entity status is granted by the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, so that they are not required to undertake additional registration at the Ministry of Home Affairs. However, because of the status of Societal Organizations, Foundations and Associations now have an additional layer of operational guidelines and are subject to the close supervision of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Public Benefit Status

Both foundations and associations may be public-benefit organizations. Public benefit status, however, does not entail any tax or other benefits.

The Law on Foundations provides that "social" foundations might operate to benefit only their stakeholders, which would be inconsistent with public benefit status. The broad term of “social” in this definition might cause a problem in practice, because it is applicable to any not-for-profit activity. Consequently, there is no overall requirement that a foundation must provide public benefit, as opposed to serving only its stakeholders. It depends on the foundation’s statutory purposes.

Based on Staatsblad 1870-64, associations can be public benefit or mutual benefit organizations.

Barriers to Entry

Registration requirements

There is no law that specifically prohibits the formation and operation of ‘unregistered’ groups. In fact, Law No. 17 of 2013 on Societal Organizations stipulates a category of “societal organizations without legal entity status.” Although this might seem as providing more space for CSOs, this category is intended to reach any type of CSOs for the Government to closely control.

Law on Foundations and Staatsblad 1870-64 require registration in order for foundations and associations to obtain legal entity status. Registration here requires the deed of establishment to be in the form of a notarial deed and to be registered at the Ministry of Law and Human Rights. If the registration is accepted by the Ministry, then the deed of establishment will be published in the Supplemental to the State Gazette (Tambahan Berita Negara).

Any natural person (not including a minor) or a legal entity can found a foundation and association. The Law on Foundations provides that one person or more can found a foundation. There is no specific rule for associations, but Law No. 17 of 2013 regulates the societal organizations (which include associations) must be set up by minimum 3 persons, except for foundations. There are no minimum assets required to found a foundation or an association.

To register a foundation or an association, the notary must submit a request to the Director of General Administration of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights along with two copies of the Deed of Establishment with stamp duty, the foundation’s tax payer’s number (Nomor Pokok Wajib Pajak or NPWP) and the foundation’s certificate of domicile.

According to the Law on Foundations, the Ministry must respond within 30 days after the request for a foundation registration is received. In case a confirmation from a relevant ministry/ institution is needed, the Ministry must respond within 14 days after the confirmation is received or 30 days after the request for a confirmation is submitted. The Ministry may deny a foundation registration request in writing on the ground that the request is not according to relevant laws and regulations. An appeal to such denial is not regulated by the Law. By contrast, the registration of associations is not regulated in detail.

In addition to the general procedure above, the Ministry also issued a Minister of Law and Human Rights Regulation No. 5 of 2014 regarding Validation of Foundations to further elaborate the procedures and requirements for securing approvals for names of foundations and their validation by the Minister. According to this regulation, all applications for the establishment of foundations will be processed electronically via the Legal Entities Administration System (Sistem Administrasi Badan Hukum or ”SABH”) under the Directorate General of Law Administration. This technical regulation, however, is intended for notaries authorized to submit applications for the validation of foundations to the Minister through SABH, and is not applicable when members of the general public wish to establish a foundation.

As for CSOs without legal entity status, Law No. 17 of 2013 stipulates that such CSOS can be established by a minimum of three persons. A Registration Certificate (Surat Keterangan Terdaftar) shall be provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs for a national level CSO, by the Governor for a provincial level CSO, or by the Mayor/Regent for a City/ Regency level CSO. There could also be more simple type of CSOs, i.e. the ones without formal documents such as Deed of establishment, Organizational work plan, and Tax ID. The data of such organizations will be collected by Camat (District Head) (See Article 18). The Law further defines that national level organizations are organizations that have organizational structure in minimum 25 per cent of the total number of provinces in Indonesia; provincial level organizations are organizations that have organizational structure in minimum 25 per cent of the total number of cities/regencies in a province; and city/regency level organizations are organizations that have organizational structure in minimum one district.

Foreign Organizations

The Law on Foundations permits foreign citizens together with Indonesians or otherwise to establish a foundation under Indonesian law, and foreign foundations, i.e. foundations established under foreign laws, to operate in Indonesian territory, provided that the operation is in partnership with an Indonesian foundation and only in the areas of social, religion and humanity.

The Law on Foundations and relevant regulations outline a set of rules regarding foundations established by foreign individuals or entities. The Law mandates a minimum contribution to the foundation’s assets of 100 million IDR (USD 10,000). For registration, the minimum contribution must be documented, the foreign individual/entity must provide identification, and there must be a statement that the foundation will not be detrimental to the Indonesian society, nation and country. Activities must be undertaken in partnership with foundations established by Indonesian citizens/entities that have the same goal and purpose as the foreign foundation. Further, such partnership must be “safe” from the political, legal, technical and security perspective; the Law does not further define what is meant by these terms.

Foundations established by foreign individuals or entities must have a minimum of one Indonesian member on the executive board; that member must serve as the foundation’s chair, secretary or treasurer. In addition, all members of the executive board must be residents of Indonesia. Members of the executive board, governing board and supervisory board who are not Indonesian citizens must have work and temporary residence permits (KITAS or Kartu Izin Tinggal Sementara).

Law No. 17 of 2013 stipulates that foreign CSOs can only be set up as Foundations, not Associations or societal organizations without legal entity status. The Law has a special category of “societal organizations established by foreign citizens” (Chapter 13 of Law No. 17 of 2013; in this report, this category is referred as ‘foreign CSOs’). There are three types of foreign CSOs, namely: (1) Foreign Foundations (foundations established in foreign countries) or other term, (2) Indonesian Foundations founded by foreign individuals, (3) Indonesian Foundations founded by foreign legal entities (Article 43).

Foreign foundations are obliged to obtain Government permits, namely principle permit and operational permit. Operational permit can only be obtained when the principle permit is granted.(Article 44). The principle permit is issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs based on considerations of the Permit Issuance Team, which shall be established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. To obtain a principle permit, the foreign foundation must fulfill the minimum requirements that it was established in a country that has diplomatic relations with Indonesia and that its governing principle, purposes and activities are not-for-profit. The permit is issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs or the local government according to the level of work of the foreign foundation only after the foreign foundation signs a written agreement with the Indonesian government according to its scope of activities. The duration of the principle permit is three years and can be extended, while the duration of operational permit cannot be more than the duration of the principle permit.

In addition to the regulations set forth in the Law on Foundations elaborated above, Law No. 17 of 2013 provides that Indonesian Foundations founded by foreign individuals and foreign legal entities must only be granted legal entity status by the Ministry of Law and Regulations after the Ministry obtained consideration from the Permit Issuance Team. Furthermore, Law No. 17 of 2013 states that the foreign individual founding the Indonesian Foundation must have resided in Indonesia for five consecutive years and hold permanent residency (Izin Tinggal Tetap). The minimum assets of the Indonesian foundation founded by foreign individuals is IDR 1 billion (USD 100,000). There are also additional regulations for Indonesian foundations founded by foreign legal entities. The foreign legal entity must have operated in Indonesia for five consecutive years and the minimum asset of such foundation must be minimum IDR 10 billion (USD 1 million) (Article 47). In their operations, Indonesian Foundations founded by foreign individuals or foreign legal entities are obliged to have a partnership with the government and Indonesian CSOs. (Article 48).

Barriers to Operational Activity

The government does not have the right to interfere with the internal self-governance of a CSO. The Law on Foundations, however, stipulates that the organizational structure of a foundation must consist of three organs: the Governing Board (Badan Pembina), Supervisory Board (Badan Pengawas), and Executive Board (Badan Pengurus). Law No. 17 of 2013 on Societal Organizations does not provide detailed requirements on the organizational structure. It only regulates that the executive of societal organizations shall be selected based on consensus and deliberation and shall consist of minimum one chairperson, one secretary, and one treasurer. (article 29). The Law does not provide further on the different levels of organization.

The Law on Foundations requires every foundation to publish the abridged version of its annual report on an announcement board in its office. Furthermore, foundations that have received donations from the state, overseas parties, or third parties totaling 500 million Indonesian rupiah (IDR) or more, or that possess assets other than endowed assets of over 20 billion IDR, must be audited by a public accountant and have their annual report summaries published in an Indonesian-language daily newspaper. The Societal Organizations Law requires societal organizations collecting public funds to maintain financial reports according to standards of accountancy and publish them regularly (Article 38). With regard to geographical location to operate, Societal Organizations Law provides that CSOs may have organizational structure abroad and may operate in all parts of Indonesia according to relevant laws and regulations (Articles 26 and 27).

Although the law does not restrict the activities of CSOs, the government has been accused by CSOs of not providing adequate protection to CSO representatives in the face of threats and violence. A report by a Jakarta-based human rights CSO ‘Imparsial’ showed that between 2005 and 2009 the condition of human rights defenders deteriorated. There were 46 torture cases reported; 29 cases of defenders being arrested with no clear reason; and 25 cases of intimidation, threats and terror against university students, farmers, journalists and CSOs activists. [4] Therefore, Imparsial and a coalition of CSOs for the protection of human rights defenders have proposed a Bill on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

There are CSOs that are linked to local governments or ministries. They are usually called “red-license-plate CSOs” as government-owned cars in Indonesia have red license plates. They are allegedly created to facilitate corrupt practices and control over government-funded projects as well as to disseminate an opinion countering CSOs that criticize the government actions or policies.

[4] Camelia Pasandaran, “More Protection Needed For Human Rights Defenders: Komnas HAM,” Jakarta Globe, August 17, 2009. See Imparsial’s report in Indonesian language: Imparsial, “Laporan Kondisi Pembela Hak Asasi Manusia 2005-2009” [Report on the Condition of Human Rights Defender 2005-2009], August 2009.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

In general, Indonesian law does not hamper the ability of CSOs to criticize the Government or to advocate politically unpopular causes. However, there is concern that the 2011 Intelligence Law contains several articles open to multiple interpretations, which CSOs claim violate and override the Law on Public Freedom of Information of 2008. For example, the Intelligence Law defines “intelligence secrets” as “information that could jeopardize national security,” but provides no further explanation about the definition of “national security.” This is problematic for journalists and CSO activists because the provision could be interpreted in a way which would criminalize the spreading of public interest information.  Interestingly, the Constitutional Court, in November 2012, rejected a motion from a coalition of civil society groups to amend the 2011 Intelligence Law, saying that the law neither violated the Constitution nor threatened freedom of expression.

There is generally no limit on the ability of CSOs to engage in political or legislative activities. However, the Government can use the penal code against CSOs as well as media outlets that strongly criticize the Government. In 2009, three activists were suspected of libel due to statements they made in the media regarding corruption and human rights cases. [5]

There is also a growing concern about the use of the Law No. 11 of 2008 regarding Electronic Information and Transactions as the basis for defamation. The Law actually provides a legal basis for internet-based commerce in Indonesia and codifies a number of internet-based offenses. However, it also contains a provision that criminalizes internet-based insults and defamation, with noticeably stronger penalties than those regulated in the Criminal Code (i.e., a maximum punishment of 6 years imprisonment and fine up to Rp.1 billion – approximately $100,000. Although to date there has not been any case of defamation filed against activists using the Electronic Information and Transactions Law, the law is seen generally as a threat to freedom of expression.

[5] They are Usman Hamid of Kontras (The Commission for the Disappeared and the Victims of Violence) and Illian Deta Artasari and Emerson Yuntho of Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW). See “Libel Suspects to Disregard Summons,” Jakarta Post, October 14, 2009.

Barriers to International Contact

Foreign foundations face a requirement to refrain from activities which "disrupt the stability and the unity“ of Indonesia or "disrupt diplomatic ties." Excessive bureaucratic controls also require them to have residency and minimum assets for their establishment (USD1 million for a foreign legal entity and USD100,000 for a foreign individual).

Barriers to Resources

The Law on Foundations requires foundations that have received donations from the state, overseas parties, or third parties totaling 500 million Indonesian rupiah (IDR) or more to be audited by a public accountant and to have their annual report summaries published in an Indonesian-language daily newspaper. Foundations are allowed to engage in commercial activities to support the attainment of their objectives through setting up commercial enterprises and/or participating as shareholders in commercial enterprises. Associations, on the other hand, are not allowed to do so. If a foundation sets up its own commercial enterprise, the activities of the enterprise must relate to the foundation’s statutory purposes. These activities are defined broadly, including the fields of human rights, art, sport, consumer protection, education, environment, health, and the pursuit of knowledge. Shareholding by a foundation is allowed, provided that it does not exceed 25 percent of the total value of the foundation’s assets. In order to maintain good corporate governance, no member of the governing, supervisory, or executive board of the foundation can simultaneously serve as a manager, supervisor, member of the Board of Directors, or member of the Board of Commissioners of any commercial enterprise that a foundation establishes or in which it invests.

In October 2011, the House of Representatives passed the zakat (Islamic mandatory alms) management bill into law (Undang-undang tentang Pengelolaan Zakat). According to the new law, the individuals are still allowed to establish zakat collection agencies under the government-owned National Alms Agency (Baznas) supervision, provided that they meet all administrative requirements, including the possession of a recommendation from Baznas and technical ability to run their alms collection and distribution programs. During the House discussion, before the bill was passed, a number of legislators questioned some provisions which provide that alms collection and distribution can only be carried out by a societal organization with legal entity status; the legislators said that the new law will force community-based alms management groups to stop their alms collection and distribution activities since they have no resources or capacity to establish a societal organization with legal entity status.

Barriers to Assembly

Law No. 9 of 1998 on Freedom to Express an Opinion in Public governs various kinds of assemblies, including demonstrations, rallies, public meetings and open forums.

Advance Notification
According to Law No. 9 of 1998, the organizer of an assembly shall submit information regarding the assembly in writing to the police at least 24 hours before the event, unless the assembly relates to academic activities on campus or to religious activities. (Article 10)

The advance notification shall contain the following information:

  1. purpose of the assembly,
  2. venue/location/route,
  3. time and duration of the assembly,
  4. form of the assembly,
  5. the name of the person in charge, and
  6. the name and address of the organization/group/individuals, any equipment that will be used, and number of participants. (Article 11)

The police may dismiss the assembly if they find equipment used in the assembly that is harmful for public safety or if the organizer fails to fulfill the information requirements in Article 10 and 11.

The law does not allow spontaneous demonstrations, unless it is in the form of an academic forum and held on a campus.

Time, Place and Manner Restrictions.
Article 9 of Law No. 9 of 1998 lists places and times that are not allowed for assemblies, including: the presidential palace, religious places, military installations, hospitals, seaports and airports, train stations, land transport terminals, and vital national objects. Assemblies are not allowed on national holidays.

Responsibilities of Organizers
For every 100 participants in a demonstration or rally, organizers must designate at least five persons as in charge. (Article 12(2))

Criminal Penalties
Law No. 1/PNPS/1965 on The Prevention of Misuse and/or Defamation of Religions, which regulates religious defamation or blasphemy, imposes criminal penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment on individuals or groups that “deviate” from the basic teachings of the official religions. This law may be used against organizers and participants of assemblies promoting religious freedom.

In addition, the Indonesian Criminal Code (inherited from the colonial period) contains provisions on criminal defamation and libel (Article 310, Article 311, Article 316, and Article 207), which may be applied to organizers and participants of assemblies. The use any separatist movement’s symbols, such as a flag, is treason according to articles 104-107 of the Criminal Code; these articles have been used against assemblies in Papua against the West Papua Separatist Movement.

An assembly involving a separatist movement or land dispute may be subject to harsher regulatory treatment.  For example, many protests in Papua (where demonstrators are believed to represent separatist groups) have been broken up with the use of weapons.   

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UN Universal Periodic Review Reports Universal Periodic Review: Indonesia (2008)
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs Indonesia
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes

USIG: Indonesia

U.S. State Department 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Indonesia
Fragile States Index Reports Foreign Policy Fragile States Index
IMF Country Reports Indonesia and the IMF
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News and Additional Resources

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at

General News

New internet content censorship regulations in Indonesia (November 2014)
The Minister of Communications and Informatics issued Regulation No. 19 of 2014 on Controlling Internet Websites Containing Negative Content (Regulation 19). This regulation aims to implement "the safe and healthy use of the internet" by all social groups by blocking access to websites that contain pornographic or unlawful material (negative content). Government institutions, law enforcers, and the general public may submit reports to the Minister cr the Director General of Informatics (Director General) requesting that named websites be blocked due to their negative content. Upon receiving a report, the Director General will place the reported website on the "TRUST+ Positive" list, a database of websites reported to have negative content.

Indonesia presidential candidate Prabowo hit by human rights accusations (June 2014)
Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto faced fresh accusations of criminal behaviour after his former boss released details of a military council's findings that led to his discharge from the armed forces nearly 16 years ago. The latest accusations were detailed at a news conference by Suharto's last armed forces chief, Wiranto, who now heads a small political party, which is backing Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, the man polls predict should win the two-man race for the presidency. Wiranto insisted that he was not making his announcement in his capacity as a politician.

Indonesia's "Social Media" Elections (April 2014)
Elections in Indonesia are massive in scale. On April 9, over 180 million eligible voters will elect 19,700 legislators from over 230,000 candidates for 532 different legislatures – at the national, provincial, district, and municipal levels – in only six hours at over half a million polling stations across the country. On July 9, voters will turn out again to elect a new president and vice president. Over 70 million Indonesians are using the internet and approximately 90 percent of these are on Facebook. Over 30 million Indonesians tweet. All 12 political parties eligible to contest national elections are now active on social media.

"Societal Organizations in Indonesia do not Have a Clear Ideology" (November 2013)
The Section Head at the Ministry of Home Affairs' National Unity, Politics, and Public Protection Directorate General Dr. Bahtiar stated in a forum to disseminate the Law on Societal Organizations in Banda Aceh on November 4, 2013, that there are far too many societal organizations nowadays that want to work on any types of issues without any clear vision. The trend is considered to be the country's strength that has to be managed. Therefore, the state, according to Bahtiar, must control their activities so that they are in line with the state's goals. The Societal Organizations Law was made for the purpose of controlling those organizations, he stated. Bahtiar further urged the heads of districts (Kecamatan) to actively register all societal organizations so that the control will be effective. Hundreds of participants, which included representativesof variouslocal societal organizations, NGOs, and youth organizations, reportedly attended the forum.

Expert: Societal Organizations Law Harms Freedom of Organizations (November 2013)
Executive Director of the Indonesian Center for Law and Policy Studies (Pusat Studi Hukum & Kebijakan Indonesia or PSHK) Eryanto Nugroho provided expert testimony before the Constitutional Court for the petitioner of the Judicial Review of the Societal Organizations Law on November 20, 2013. The judicial review petition was submitted by Muhammadiyah Association in October 2013 on the basis that the Law is in contradiction with the Constitutional provision on the freedom of organizations. Eryanto Nugroho testified that the Societal Organizations Law are overly restricting the civil society as it requires registration for organizations that are not registered as legal entities.

Indonesian NGO law a setback for freedom of association (August 2013)
The Law on Mass Organisations (Ormas Law) represents a severe setback for freedom of association in the country says CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) and the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID). The ORMAS Law gives government officials wide powers to curtail the activities of independent Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). "Through ambiguous and vague provisions, this law gives the Indonesian government numerous ways of stopping the work of organisations that are critical of its policies. The law also creates additional barriers for international CSOs to prevent them from working in the country, thus denying them the opportunity to work towards the advancement of democracy and human rights," said Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Advocacy Officer at CIVICUS.

A political approach to the social sector (July 2013)
Eryanto Nugroho of PSHK makes an argument on the Law on Mass Organizations, saying: “Do not pass the bill. The 1985 law on mass organizations should be revoked altogether, not merely revised. Do not revive such a problematic political approach to social activities.  The country should instead implement the correct legal framework by amending the law and continuing the deliberation of the association bill that has been included in the 2010-2014 National Legislation Program (number 228).  The government must not consider the public sector a threat. It should provide facilities and incentives, rather than control, restriction or repression.”

Civil society groups flourish in Indonesia, but threatened by new bill (April 2013)
Indonesia’s flourishing civil society activists and advocacy organizations stand in contrast to a darker culture of mob violence, militarism and extremist groups. Because of civil society efforts, the House of Representatives has halted its deliberations on revising the controversial mass organizations (ormas) bill. The House was supposed to deliberate and pass the proposed amendments, which would give government officials discretionary powers to suspend and dissolve civil society organizations, restrict local and international CSOs with regard to the Pancasila ideology, force international organizations to secure permits and limit the activities of CSOs to those within the purview of “the duty of law enforcers and government”.

Corporations named among human rights offenders (December 2012)
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has named the police and corporations as the top human rights violators in the country in 2012. The report said that the corporations are non-governmental actors that have the potential to be human rights offenders.

Bill on Societal Organizations prioritized (November 2012)
In the closing speech of the First Session of House of Representatives 2012-2013, the House Speaker Marzuki Ali said that the Bill on Societal Organization is one of 29 priority bills which will have an extended period of discussion. The Bill has now entered the first phase of deliberation and is predicted to be passed into law in the next session.

Petition to amend the Law on Intelligence rejected (November 201)
The Constitutional Court rejected a petition from a coalition of civil society groups to amend Law No. 17 of 2011 on Intelligence. The Court said that the law neither violated the Constitution nor threatened freedom of expression. Civil society organizations are concerned that the Law would bring Indonesia back to a situation similar to the Suharto’s authoritarian government era.

Mass organization bill ‘Risks return to new order’(November 2012)
The House of Representatives is being urged to scrap proposed legislation on mass organizations by civil society groups that fear the law would cripple freedom of expression. The draft law states that any group wishing to create an organization must report to the Ministry of Home Affairs and have its statute legalized by a notary public. The organization would also be required to submit a position paper stating that it was not affiliated with any political party. While supporters praise the draft law’s promise to discipline organizations that disrupt social order, others fear that such legislation would undermine the right to assemble and freedom of expression.

Pancisla Youth organization in protest (October 2012)
At least 500 members of the Pancasila Youth (Pemuda Pancasila) — a youth organization founded by the Suharto’s “New Order” regime — attacked a newspaper office in Bogor, West Java. The protest was triggered by news coverage which was deemed insulting to the organization. The protest was also a reaction to the documentary “The Act of Killing,” which screened at the Toronto Film Festival. The movie illustrates the killing of a number of the Indonesian Communist Party members by members of the Pancasila Youth in the last 1960s.

Constitutional court rejects appeal of Intelligence Law (October 2012)
The Constitutional Court rejected a motion from a coalition of civil society groups to amend the 2011 Intelligence Law, saying that the law neither violated the Constitution nor threatened freedom of expression.[...] The Advocacy Coalition on the Law on State Intelligence, which includes the rights groups Imparsial, the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam), the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation and the Alliance of Independent Journalists, filed the lawsuit early this year. They argued that the legislation is filled with articles open to multiple interpretations, including the loose definition of secretive intelligence in Article 1, which they claim violates and overrides the Law on Public Freedom of Information, passed three years prior.

Interview of human rights defender Febi Yonesta (September 2012)
Human Rights First published an interview with Human Rights defender Febi Yonesta of Indonesia in which he gives his accounts of the situation of human rights in his country. Read the interview here.

Bill on Societal Organizations set to become law (September 2012)
It is reported that the Bill on Societal Organizations, which is currently being discussed in the House of Representatives’ Working Committee, will be delivered to the Plenary Session for approval to become Law by the end of October 2012.

Politicians determined to clamp down on foreign NGOs (September 2012)
Jakarta’s Governor, Fauzi Bowo, who is currently running as a candidate in the gubernatorial election, affirmed his commitment to take action against foreign NGOs which are considered not to be in compliance with the law. Ashraf Ali, Fauzi’s Campaign Manager, claims that some foreign NGOs, including Greenpeace, which are not registered in the Provincial Department of National Unity and Politics (under the Ministry of Home Affairs), are still a concern of the Provincial Government.

NGO coalition calls for halt to deliberation on Bill on Societal Organizations (September 2012)
The NGOs Coalition for Freedom of Association and Expression demanded the House of Representatives stop deliberation on the Bill on Societal Organizations. The Coalition also called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to revoke any regulations that restrict freedom of expression and association. The Minister of Home Affairs Regulation No. 33 of 2012 on Guidelines for Societal Organizations Registration is one such regulation. The Coalition argues that this ministerial regulation ignores the principles of human rights.

National Law Commission discusses the unequal treatment by the government towards CSOs (August 2012)
In a public discussion held by the National Law Commission (KHN), Eryanto Nugroho from the Indonesian Centre for Law and Policy Studies (PSHK) compared the inequality of the government’s policy on the state-society relations and on the state-private sector relations. He said that the government does not see the private sector as a threat to national security, so it provides a variety of conveniences to investors. On the contrary, CSOs are seen as threat to national security, so the approach taken by the state is to control them. Regarding the Bill on Societal Organizations, the KHN recommends the House of Representatives and the Government to elaborate and accommodate the stakeholders’ recommendations; categorize the type of organizations to clarify the procedure of NGO’s register obligation; clarify the permissibility of the use of other organization’s principles beside Pancasila; and provide protection and guarantee the freedom of association to the political party affiliated-mass organizations.

Foreign NGOs labeled an “overdose” by Indonesian Minister (August 2012)
The Minister of Law and Human Rights Amir Syamsuddin said that the campaigns of foreign NGOs in Indonesia are an “overdose” and are disrupting the country’s business environment. He added that it is still under review if the campaigns are based on the interest of business competition. Prof. Romli Atmasasmita, a former Ministry of Law and Human Rights official, previously mentioned that the NGOs registered with the Ministry of Law and Human Rights may be frozen.

Greenpeace Indonesia faces mounting pressure (July 2012)
Greenpeace Indonesia continues to find itself at the center of attacks from both conservative Muslim activists and the government over its activities inside and outside the country. The ANTARA news agency reported that the government is looking at a number of alleged offenses committed by the environmental group, which could potentially lead to its expulsion from the country.

Public funding will make the corruption eradication commission (KPK) more powerful (June 2012)
The Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), one of the groups which joined the initiative to set up funds for the KPK, said that the fundraising program would empower the KPK. “We also want to show the House of Representatives that the new building is very important for the KPK,” LBH Jakarta director Nur-kholis Hidayat told The Jakarta Post.

Greenpeace Indonesia urged to disclose financial information (June 2012)
Abdul Malik Haramain, Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Special Committee for the Bill on Societal Organization urged Greenpeace Indonesia to disclose their financial management information. Haramain supports the Students Alliance for Reject Foreign NGOs (Aliansi Mahasiswa Tolak LSM Asing) who had questioned the financial management of public funds by Greenpeace Indonesia.  Haramain said that the current Law on Societal Organization (Law No. 8/1985) stipulates that the government may suspend the NGOs who received funds from the foreign party without the government’s approval or provide assistance to foreign parties against the nation’s interests.

Civil society groups want transparency in Jakarta grant disbursement (May 2012)
An anti-corruption watchdog reiterated its demand on Thursday that Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo reveal information about Rp 1.3 trillion ($140.4 million) worth of special grants allocated by the city, alleging that some of the money may have gone improperly toward supporting the governor’s reelection campaign. City grants for special events had risen sharply this year, but the process for planning and allocating the money was murky and closed, said Apung Widadi, a researcher with Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW).

Chairman of House of Representatives calls for greater regulation of foreign NGOs (May 2012)
Abdul Malik Haramain, Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Special Committee for the Bill on Societal Organization, affirmed the urgency of revising the Law No. 8 of 1985 on Societal Organizations. He said that the current law is not adequate to regulate the activities of “foreign NGOs”, so it needs to be revised.

National police struggle to deal with intolerant groups (May 2012)
A lawmaker from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), Eva Kusuma Sundari, said that the National Police are powerless when dealing with intolerant groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). There have been several recent incidents when police failed to prevent or resolve clashes, leaving the impression that police were afraid of the groups.

EU-Indonesia dialogue should press for progress on rights (May 2012)
The European Union should press Indonesia to act against growing religious intolerance and to release all political prisoners during the EU-Indonesia human rights dialogue on May 3, 2012. Human Rights Watch said, "The EU-Indonesia dialogue should be more than token statements on human rights, but should discuss concrete measures to address rising religious intolerance and restraints on free expression in Indonesia," said the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This dialogue should be a wake-up call for Indonesia to protect religious minorities against growing violence and discrimination."

Civil society plays a key role in challenging corruption in the Reformation era (April 2012)
In an analysis of Indonesian civil society's role in fighting corruption, a lecturer from Diponegro University in Semarang details the key strategy of CSOs that now dominate the country's anti-corruption movement. CSOs exert pressure on policy makers by engaging in massive propaganda campaigns to generate public support through the mass media and conducting frequent press conferences to ensure that their opinions are broadcast through a range of media outlets. Activists also use various public forums - from street demonstrations to the podium of conference rooms in five star hotels - to deliver their message. They aim to raise awareness and generate grassroots movements, assist in detecting graft and advocating punishment for guilty parties and work to prevent the loss of state assets. Despite the difficulties for measuring the impact of these kinds of activities, there is no doubt that these organizations have played a key role in the proliferation of anti-corruption attitude throughout Indonesian society.

Mass organizations must not be controlled (March 2012)
A bill on mass organizations proposed by the government to replace the current Law No. 8/1985 has received strong criticism from academics and students in Yogyakarta who consider the move an attempt by the government to control rather than protect mass organizations.

News Archive

President Yudhoyono tells foreign NGOs not to interfere (December 2011)

Study: Indonesian NGOs must set transparency example (November 2011) 

Greenpeace cries foul as eviction papers are served (November 2011) 

Officials fail to stop Greenpeace rep (October 2011)

Reason Greenpeace Exec denied entry a ‘State Secret,’ Indonesia says (October 2011) 

Greenpeace director denied entry to Indonesia (October 2011) 

Government to get tough on ‘untransparent’ foreign-funded NGOs (September 2011)

Aliansi Mahasiswa Desak Pemerintah Evaluasi Greenpeace (August 2011) 

Christian group wants Greenpeace investigated: Report (August 2011) 

Greenpeace on defensive again over lottery funds (August 2011) 

Indonesian lawmaker continues to attack greenpeace (July 2011) 

Greenpeace to be expelled from Jakarta (July 2011) 

FBR protesters abuse Greenpeace Indonesia staff during rowdy Jakarta rally (July 2011)

Indonesia’s democratic reversal? (May 2011) 

NGOs demand Indonesian lawmakers stay home (May 2011) 

NGOs demand appraisal on foreign aid (April 2011) 

Human Rights Watch urges Govt to revoke Ahmadiyah bans (March 2011) 

Peace Brigades International has closed its current phase of operations in Indonesia (January 2011)

NGO: RI should use Asean chair term to promote rights (January 2011)


As a response to the enactment of the Societal Organizations Law, CSOs in the Coalition for Freedom of Association (Koalisi Kebebasan Berserikat), which have been active in organizing rallies and lobbying against the Law, organized an event called “The Fasting of Democracy: The State Restriction on the Freedom of Organization” in Jakarta on July 31, 2013. It was a popular event in which the general public was invited to come and discuss the newly enacted Law from the perspective of the CSOs and to express their support on the CSO initiative to push the government to revoke the Law.

The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL NGO Law Monitor partner in Indonesia, Bivitri Susanti of the Indonesian Centre for Law & Policy Studies or Pusat Studi Hukum & Kebijakan Indonesia (PSHK).

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