- Indonesian police have named 265 suspects in connection with this year’s forest fires.
- A spokesperson for Indonesia’s environment and forestry ministry told the BBC on Monday that the government had been “desperately working” to tackle the situation.
- Kontras has also criticized the longstanding practice of identifying suspects by initials.
A human rights watchdog in Indonesia intervened in this year’s haze crisis on Monday to criticize the government for failing to do enough to protect the human rights of citizens affected by toxic pollution.
“Kontras does not see any coordination among state institutions or even serious steps to provide protection of the fundamental rights of citizens who live around the [affected] forest area and land,” Puri Kencana, a senior official at the Commission for “the Disappeared” and Victims of Violence (Kontras), told reporters on Monday.
Puri said the Indonesian government has failed to implement sufficient measures under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations in 1966 and brought into force 10 years later. Indonesia is a state party to the treaty, having ratified the covenant in 2006.
“These violations increased, especially with the discovery of casualties during the disastrous forest fires and smog,” said Puri.
The minister in charge of Indonesia’s humanitarian and firefighting operation has indicated successive governments have failed to adequately plan ahead to mitigate annual forest fires. The government maintains, however, that it has allocated all available resources to extinguishing fires, even last month announcing it had sequestered state- and military-owned vessels to serve as evacuation ships if air pollution continued to worsen.
A spokesperson for Indonesia’s environment and forestry ministry told the BBC on Monday that the government has been “desperately working” to tackle the situation.
The Indonesian government has, however, declined to announce an official national emergency because of concerns it could enable some companies to declare force majeure. The government is also eager to not to undermine its natural resource industry. The lack of national disaster status has been criticized by some opposition politicians in Indonesia, most notably by Prabowo Subianto, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s defeated rival in last year’s presidential election.
Kontras has also criticized the longstanding practice of identifying suspects by initials, rather than releasing the company name in full.
“The problem is that the police is still using the acronyms of companies,” Puri said. “The government is still trying to protect companies that burn the forest.”
Indonesian police have named 265 suspects in connection with this year’s forest fires, while the government of Singapore has served six Indonesian firms with “preventative measures notices” under its transboundary pollution laws. The city state’s ability to enforce this 2014 law has been compromised by the Indonesian government’s intransigence on providing detailed information on companies it suspects of wrongdoing. Kontras added on Monday that the decision to not openly identify suspect companies diluted Indonesia’s legal deterrent.
“If the identity of the [suspected] perpetrator is not made clear then potentially the same crimes will happen again next year.”
A report released by Eyes of the Forest, an Indonesian environmental NGO, said 53 percent of the total number of high-confidence hotspots in Sumatra’s peatlands were on concessions held by Asia Pulp & Paper.