Suspicious Death of Environmental Human Rights Activist Golfrid Siregar

October 29, 2019

Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia
1111 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

Re: Suspicious Death of Environmental Human Rights Activist Golfrid Siregar

Dear Consul General Simon D.I Soekarno:

We represent 240 civil society organizations writing in regards to Golfrid Siregar, an Indonesian environmental lawyer who died on October 6, 2019, under suspicious circumstances. On October 3, 2019, Golfrid Siregar was found beaten and abandoned on the side of a road in Medan. Although police claim his death was the result of a traffic accident, there are a number of irregularities and suspicious circumstances which suggest his death may have occurred as retaliation for his environmental and human rights advocacy work, thus warranting immediate further investigation.

We believe that environmental human rights defenders represent a country’s best and brightest – these are the individuals who put their lives on the line to make their country more fair, more safe, more just. As such, we stand with the Indonesian Civil Society Coalition for Human Rights Defenders Protection in urgently calling on the Indonesian government to immediately launch an independent, thorough investigation of Golfrid Siregar’s death. Failing to do so would suggest the Indonesian government’s ambivalence to the serious life and death struggles facing its own people.

Suspicious Circumstances

The Indonesian Civil Society Coalition for Human Rights Defenders Protection[1] has observed troubling irregularities, which suggest that Golfrid Siregar’s injuries were not caused by an ordinary traffic accident[2]. First, he suffered primarily from serious head injuries which caused his cranium to break, while the rest of his body remained largely uninjured. Second, family and friends reported that there were bruises to his right eye as if from a hard, direct blow. Third, mud and wet soil were found on his clothes, even though the area where he was found is paved, with no soil nearby. Fourth, his personal belongings, bag, laptop, wallet, phone, and ring were missing. Fifth, his motorcycle was mostly undamaged, and not reflective of being in a serious, fatal traffic accident[3]. It should also be noted that there were no bloodstains where he was found; his clothes were undamaged and did not show signs of Golfrid falling off the motorcycle.

Golfrid Siregar’s Life’s Work to Promote Environmental Protection and Human Rights

These suspicious circumstances are more troubling when seen in the context of Golfrid Siregar’s life’s work to promote human rights and environmental protection. Since 2016, Golfrid Siregar worked as Legal Manager at WALHI North Sumatra, where he advocated on behalf of local communities on a variety of cases involving illegal logging, mining, and forest encroachment, among others. One of his more recent cases involved a lawsuit against PT NSHE, the developer for the controversial Batang Toru Hydrodam in North Sumatra. Filed by WALHI North Sumatra, the lawsuit claimed that the company violated at least three Indonesian laws related to project permitting, good governance, and procedural flaws. He was also involved in exposing an expert’s forged signature in the project’s AMDAL (environmental impact assessment). Golfrid Siregar was extremely active in this case, and also filed a complaint with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in regards to potential embezzlement and corruption between the project developer PT NSHE and local government.

In August and September of this year, he was in communication with the Investigation Supervision Role (Wassidik) and Professional and Security Division (Propam) at Indonesian Police Headquarters (Mabes POLRI) after submitting a report on concerning behavior of the Regional Police North Sumatra investigator. Forgery is a criminal offense, and so the forged signature in the Batang Toru Hydrodam was previously reported to the Regional Police. Golfrid’s report to Indonesian Police Headquarters (Mabes POLRI) raised concerns about the Regional Police of North Sumatra’s sudden issuance of a Termination Letter of Investigation (SP3), which essentially ended regional police investigation of forgery in Batang Toru Hydrodam’s AMDAL. In September, he was invited by the Professional and Security Division (Propam) Mabes POLRI to provide additional clarification to his report about the Regional Police's Termination of Investigation (SP3), but requested to reschedule due to work responsibilities in Medan.

It should be noted that the Batang Toru Hydropower project has attracted controversy for not only its environmental, social, and biodiversity issues, but for the suspicious activities associated with the project developer PT NSHE. Scientific experts have been fired for speaking out against the project[4]; local environmental organizers report harassment, intimidation, and being followed by company hired men; and just recently, the Indonesian expert who testified that his signature was forged in the AMDAL for the Batang Toru Hydrodam project has been accused of defamation[5].

Our Request to the Indonesian Government, in Solidarity with Indonesian Civil Society

Within this context, Golfrid Siregar’s death is extremely suspicious, and it is not unreasonable to draw uncomfortable connections between his work as an environmental human rights defender and his tragic death. In light of this, we stand with Indonesian civil society organizations[6] in calling on the Indonesian state government to urgently take the following actions:

  1. Launch an independent, robust investigation immediately in order to ascertain violations of human rights and freedom, which is in line with the international standard of the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders (Article 9 - Section 5) passed by the United Nations on December 9, 1998.

  2. Establish an independent fact-finding team coordinated directly by the National Comission on Human Rights (KOMNAS HAM), and conduct a thorough, independent investigation.

  3. Assign Indonesian Police Headquarters (Mabes POLRI) as lead investigators on Golfrid Siregar’s death and conduct the investigation in a public and transparent manner, given existing conflicts of interest within the local North Sumatran police department (POLDA Sumut) and Golfrid’s advocacy work to expose legal irregularities in local projects.

  4. Immediately publish Presidential Regulations which establish and ensure protections for environmental, human rights defenders, so as to prevent any further violence and criminalization of those who may expose unjust or illegal activities at the price of their lives.

  5. Establish and enshrine people’s rights to life and environmental sustainability as inviolable prerequisites within Indonesian policies and programs related to economic development.

Lastly, we note that Golfrid Siregar’s untimely death occurs as part of a broader patter of criminalization and intimidation of Indonesian environmental human rights defenders. These include Indra Pelani, Salim Kancil, Yohanes Balubun, Poroduka, and now Golfrid Siregar, as well as the attempted murder by arson experienced by Murdani in West Nusa Tenggara. As such, we strongly call on the Indonesian government to take the above actions in order to ensure that no more lives – the country’s best and brightest – will be lost in the future.

Sincerely,

  1. 11.11.11 Belgium

  2. 350 Ghana Reducing Our Carbon

  3. Abibiman Foundation

  4. Accion Ecologica

  5. Accountability Counsel

  6. Africa Japan Forum

  7. Aliansi Jurnalis Independen

  8. Alyansa Tigil Mina

  9. Amazon Watch

  10. Amics de la Terra Mallorca

  11. Amigos da Terra Brasil/Friends of the Earth Brazil

  12. Amigos de la Tierra Argentina/Friends of the Earth Argentina

  13. AMUMRA

  14. Animal People, Inc.

  15. Animals Asia

  16. Aotearoa New Zealand Human Rights Foundation

  17. ARA

  18. Arab Youth Climate Movement

  19. Asia Indigenous Peoples Network on Extractive Industries and Energy

  20. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development

  21. Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development

  22. Asociacion Ambiente y Sociedad

  23. Attac France

  24. Australian Rainforest Conservation Society

  25. Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association/Friends of the Earth Bangladesh

  26. Bangladesh Krishok Federation

  27. Bank Information Center

  28. BankTrack

  29. BIC Europe

  30. Biofuelwatch

  31. Bolivian Platform on Climate Change

  32. Borneo Futures

  33. Both ENDS

  34. Bruno Manser Fonds

  35. Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation

  36. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

  37. Cairns Climate Action Network

  38. Cameroon Network of Human Rights Organisations

  39. Campaign for Survival & Dignity

  40. Censat Agua Viva - Amigos de la Tierra Colombia

  41. Centar za životnu sredinu/Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina

  42. Center for International Environmental Law

  43. Central Coast Greens

  44. Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka

  45. Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights/ Friends of the Earth Papua New Guinea

  46. Centro Amazónico de Antropología y Aplicación Practica

  47. Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos "Segundo Montes Mozo S.J."

  48. Centro para la Autonomía y Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas

  49. CESTA/ Friends of the Earth El Salvador

  50. Clean Air Action Group

  51. Climate Watch Thailand

  52. Climaxi/Friends of the Earth Flanders

  53. CNCD-11.11.11

  54. Coal Action Network

  55. COECOCEIBA/ Amigos de la Tierra Costa Rica

  56. Colectivo Geografía Crítica Ecuador

  57. Community Empowerment and Social Justice Network

  58. Community Resource Centre

  59. Conseil Regional des Organisations Non Gouvernementales de Development

  60. CooperAcción

  61. Cordillera Peoples Alliance

  62. Corporate Europe Observatory

  63. deCOALonize Movement

  64. Democracy Green

  65. Diálogo 2000-Jubileo Sur Argentina

  66. E3G

  67. EarthRights International

  68. East Timor and Indonesia Action Network

  69. EcoEquity

  70. EJAtlas Project

  71. Environics Trust

  72. Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ Inc.

  73. Environmental Association "Za Zemiata"

  74. Environmental Investigation Agency

  75. Environmental Justice Foundation

  76. EquityBD

  77. Esorg

  78. Federación Indígena Empresarial y Comunidades Locales de México

  79. Federación por la Autodeterminación de los Pueblos Indígenas

  80. Fern

  81. FIAN Indonesia

  82. Focus Association for Sustainable Development/Friends of the Earth Slovenia

  83. Food & Water Action

  84. Forest Observatory

  85. Forest Peoples Programme

  86. Forum for Protection of Public Interest/Friends of the Earth Nepal

  87. Freedom from Debt Coalition

  88. Freedom House

  89. Friends of Same

  90. Friends of the Earth Australia

  91. Friends of the Earth Canada

  92. Friends of the Earth Czech Republic

  93. Friends of the Earth Europe

  94. Friends of the Earth EWNI (England, Wales, Northern Ireland)

  95. Friends of the Earth France

  96. Friends of the Earth International

  97. Friends of the Earth Japan

  98. Friends of the Earth Liberia

  99. Friends of the Earth Scotland

  100. Friends of the Earth Spain

  101. Friends of the Earth Togo

  102. Friends of the Earth United States

  103. Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia

  104. Friends of the Siberian Forests

  105. Friends with Environment in Development

  106. Front Line Defenders

  107. Fundación Paso a Paso A.C.

  108. Gender and Water Justice

  109. Global Forest Coalition

  110. Global Justice Now

  111. Grassroots Global Justice

  112. Great Ape Project

  113. Green Advocates International

  114. Greenpeace Indonesia

  115. Greenpeace Southeast Asia

  116. Greenpeace United Kingdom

  117. groundWork/Friends of the Earth South Africa

  118. HABURAS Foundation /Friends of the Earth Timor Leste

  119. HEDA Resource Centre

  120. Hodopathy Ethno Medicine Doctors' Association of India

  121. Iceland Nature Conservation Association

  122. IISCAL

  123. Inclusive Development International

  124. Indian Social Action Forum

  125. Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation

  126. Indigenous Perspectives

  127. Indonesia AIDS Coalition

  128. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

  129. Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities

  130. International Accountability Project

  131. International League of People's Struggle - Commission 10

  132. International Platform against Impunity

  133. International Rivers

  134. International Service for Human Rights

  135. Jamaa Resource Initiatives

  136. Japan Tropical Forest Action Network

  137. Jordens Vänner/Friends of the Earth Sweden

  138. Justiça Ambiental/Friends of the Earth Mozambique

  139. Khan Kaneej aur ADHIKAR

  140. Koalice proti palmovému oleji

  141. Korea Federation for Environmental Movements/Friends of the Earth South Korea

  142. La Via Campesina

  143. Laudato si, z.s.

  144. Legal Rights and Natural Resources Centre/Friends of the Earth Philippines

  145. Lilak (Purple Action for Indigenous Women's Rights)

  146. London Mining Network

  147. LPESM Riau

  148. Lumiere Synergie Developpement

  149. Maleya Foundation

  150. Market Forces

  151. Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

  152. Mekong Watch

  153. Merdeka West Papua Support Network

  154. Mighty Earth

  155. Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands

  156. Mom Loves Taiwan Association

  157. Mouvement Ecologique/Friends of the Earth Luxembourg

  158. Movimentu Dili Matak

  159. MultiWatch

  160. Myanmar Positive Group

  161. Nabilan

  162. Nacion Tawahka

  163. Narasha Community Development Group

  164. National Hawker Federation

  165. New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light

  166. NGO Forum on Asian Development Bank

  167. NGO Neuer Weg

  168. NIjmegen Internationale Samenwerking

  169. Northern District Community Health Centre Kerang

  170. Nostromo

  171. Nuclear Information and Resource Service

  172. Oil Change International

  173. Orang Utan Republik Foundation

  174. Orangutan Alliance Ltd.

  175. Orangutan Land Trust

  176. Oyu Tolgoi Watch

  177. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum

  178. Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network/Friends of the Earth Palestine

  179. Palm Oil Watch

  180. PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao Region

  181. People’ Health Movement

  182. People’s Health Institute

  183. Plymouth Climate Council

  184. PRISMA Foundation

  185. Pro Natura/Friends of the Earth Switzerland

  186. Progress Lawyers Network

  187. Protect the Forest, Sweden

  188. Public Interest Law Centre

  189. Punganay

  190. Radio Rakambia

  191. Rainforest Action Network

  192. Rainforest Foundation Norway

  193. Re:Common

  194. REDES/Friends of the Earth Uruguay

  195. Resguardo indígena la mirla

  196. Rivers without Boundaries Coalition - Mongolia

  197. Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition

  198. Roraima Indigenous Council

  199. Russian Social-Ecological Union/Friends of the Earth Russia

  200. Sahabat Alam Malaysia/Friends of the Earth Malaysia

  201. Sanlakas

  202. Sarawak Campaign Committee

  203. SAVE Wildlife Conservation Fund

  204. Siemenpuu Foundation

  205. Solidar Suisse

  206. Solifonds

  207. SONIA for a Just New World

  208. Sri Lanka Nature Group

  209. Stand.earth

  210. Stop the Wall Campaign (Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign)

  211. Strategic Youth Network for Development

  212. Sumatran Orangutan Society

  213. Sustainability Agriculture Productivity Improvement Project

  214. Synchronicity Earth

  215. TAPOL

  216. Taunggyi Youth Center

  217. Tebtebba Foundation

  218. The Australian Rainforest Conservation Society

  219. The Citizens' News

  220. The Corner House

  221. The Democracy Center

  222. The Oakland Institute

  223. The Waterloo Foundation

  224. Third World Network

  225. Tokyo East Timor Association

  226. Transparency International Korea

  227. Timorese Youths Initiative for Development

  228. UK Youth Climate Coalition

  229. Urgewald

  230. Watch Indonesia!

  231. Weald Action Group

  232. Wild Heritage

  233. Witnessradio

  234. WomanHealth

  235. WoMin African Alliance

  236. Woods & Wayside International

  237. World Rainforest Movement

  238. Youth For Environment Education And Development Foundation

  239. Zelena Akcija/Friends of the Earth Croatia

  240. Zoological Club


Countries represented

Argentina

Australia

Bangladesh

Belgium

Bolivia

Bosnia Herzegovina

Brazil

Brunei Darussalam

Bulgaria

Cameroon

Catalunya (Spain)

Chad

Colombia

Costa Rica

Croatia

Czech Republic

Democratic Republic of Congo

Ecuador

Egypt

El Salvador

Finland

France

Germany

Ghana

Honduras

Hong Kong

Hungary

India

Indonesia

Ireland

Italy

Japan

Kenya

Liberia

Malaysia

Mexico

Mongolia

Morocco

Mozambique

Myanmar

Nepal

Netherlands

New Zealand

Nicaragua

Nigeria

Norway

Pakistan

Palestine

Papua New Guinea

Paraguay

Peru

Philippines

Romania

Russia

Scotland

Senegal

Slovakia

Slovenia

South Africa

South Korea

Spain

Sri Lanka

Sweden

Switzerland

Taiwan

Thailand

Timor-Leste

Togo

Uganda

United Kingdom

United States

Uruguay


[1] The Indonesian Civil Society Coalition for Human Rights Defenders Protection include: WALHI, ELSAM, Imparsial, YLBHI, YPII, HRWG, ICEL, KontraS, ICW, LBH Pers, Kemitraan, PBHI, Greenpeace Indonesia, Human Rights Watch

[2] “Usut Tuntas Kematian Aktivis Golfrid Siregar, Hadirkan Negara untuk Lindungi Pembela HAM”, WALHI, October 10, 2019. https://walhi.or.id/usut-tuntas-kematian-aktivis-golfrid-siregar-hadirkan-negara-untuk-lindungi-pembela-ham

[3] Ayat S. Karokaro, “Suspicions of murder in death of Indonesian environmental activist”, Mongabay, October 9, 2019 – translated by Basten Gokko. https://news.mongabay.com/by/ayat-s-karokaro/https://news.mongabay.com/2019/10/environmental-activist-death-murder-indonesia/

[4] Dyna Rochmyaningsih, “A dam threatens the world’s rarest ape. Why are some conservationists suddenly on board?”, Science, September 10, 2019. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/09/dam-threatens-world-s-rarest-ape-why-are-some-conservationists-suddenly-board

[5] Zulfadli Siregar, “Dosen USU Onrizal Diperiksa Siber Ditreskrimsus Poldasu Terkait UU ITE”, Medan Bisnis Daily, October 10, 2019. http://www.medanbisnisdaily.com/m/news/online/read/2019/10/10/89036/dosen_usu_onrizal_diperiksa_siber_ditreskrimsus_poldasu_terkait_uu_ite/#.XZ7udjcsnMR.whatsapp

[6] The Indonesian Civil Society Organizations have issued a joint statement calling on the Indonesian government to urgently take these actions. The joint statement can be found here: https://walhi.or.id/usut-tuntas-kematian-aktivis-golfrid-siregar-hadirkan-negara-untuk-lindungi-pembela-ham