Global Freedom of Expression

Indonesia v. The Nine Maluku Activists

On Appeal Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Non-verbal Expression
  • Date of Decision
    January 22, 2015
  • Outcome
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Indonesia, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Freedom of Association and Assembly / Protests
  • Tags
    Political speech

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Nine political activists were sentenced to prison for treason by a district court in Ambon on January 22, 2015 for participating in a peaceful march in which their South Moluccan RMS flag was presented.

Global FoE could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.


The activists were arrested in April 2014 after they gathered for a march to commemorate the anniversary of the Republic of South Maluku movement’s (“RMS”) declaration of independence from Indonesia in a peaceful manner [1]. The activists gathered to march in the Maluku province’s capital, Ambon, and carried “Benang Raja” flags, which are a symbol of the RMS pro-independence movement [1]. The flag is prohibited under the Article 6 of the Government Regulation 77/2007, which prohibits the display of flags or logos that have the same features as “organizations, groups, institutions or separatist movements.”

It was reported that the United Nations flags were brought along with the RMS flags. However, the flags had not been raised since the activists were arrested before they could raise them. The nine men arrested at the event were charged with treason [2].

Indra Baskoro, secretary to the General Director of the National and Political Unity desk at the Home Affairs Ministry, commented that the demonstration on April 25 was a violation against the Articles 104, 106 and 107 of the country’s criminal code [2].

Article 104 states that “the attempt undertaken with intent to dperive the President or Vice President of his life or his liberty or to render him unfit to govern, shall be punished by capital punishment or life imprisonment or a maximum imprisonment of twenty years.” Article 106 prescribes that “[t]he attempt undertaken with intent to bring the territory of the state wholly or partially under foreign domination or to separate part thereof shall be punished by life imprisonment or a maximum imprisonment of twenty years.” Lastly, Article 107 stipulates that “(1) the attempt undertaken with the intent to cause a revolution shall be punished by a maximum imprisonment of fifteen years. (2) Leaders and originators of an attempt referred to in the first paragraph shall be punished by life imprisonment of a maximum imprisonment of twenty years.”

On January 22, 2015, a district court in Ambon sentenced the nine Maluku activists to between 1 year and 15 years in jail for treason. The verdict has been widely criticized by the human rights community [3].

[1] “Indonesia: Release Peaceful Political Activists Arrested in Maluku.” Amnesty International, April 25, 2014.

[2] Baxter, Will and reporters, Ambon.“Maluku Trial Highlights Indonesia’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ of Dissent. UCA News, October 3, 2014.

[3] Dagur, Ryan. “Indonesia Court Sentences Maluku Protesters” UCA News, January 23, 2015.

Decision Overview

There is no official court document available, so it is not possible to know the reasons that the court gave regarding the harsh sentence it provided. However, it is clear that the sentence was unreasonable and that it violates the activists’ right to freedom of expression because the activists were protesting in a peaceful manner.

Freedom of expression is actually protected under the article 28 of Indonesia’s constitution. Article 28 (e) stipulates that “every person shall have the right to the freedom of association and expression of opinion” and the article 28 (f) requires that “every person shall have the right to communicate and obtain information for the development of his/her personal life and his/her social environment, and shall have the right to seek, acquire, possess, keep, process, and convey information by using all available channels.”

However, in reality, the Indonesian government is sensitive toward separatist movements. Yanes Balubun, a defense lawyer for the activists, commented that the activists did not have an intention to destroy the country’s sovereignty and that their action was an expression of political choice. He further added that the action did not constitute treason as described in the criminal code because it did not involve any violence [1].

[1] Dagur, Ryan. “Indonesia Court Sentences Maluku Protesters” UCA News, January 23, 2015.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

The nine activists should not have been arrested and should not remain imprisoned because of their peaceful demonstration. The Court’s decision here contracts expression, both directly through the imprisonment of the activists and indirectly through a chilling effect on future demonstrations which would promote the RMS agenda.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Indo., Crim. Code, art. 104
  • Indo., Crim. Code, art. 106
  • Indo., Crim. Code, art. 107
  • Indo., The Government Regulation 77/2007, art. 6

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:

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