Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific Demands a Thorough Investigation into the Death of Activist Golfrid Siregar

Oct 11, 2019

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific stands 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.

Golfrid Siregar, an environmental human rights defender and member of Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI) was discovered beaten and in critical condition early on Thursday, 3 October 2019. He later died on 6 October 2019 as a result of the injuries he sustained. Although police initially claimed 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.

Suspicious Circumstances

The Indonesian Civil Society Coalition for Human Rights Defenders Protection observed troubling irregularities which suggest his injuries were not caused by an ordinary traffic accident. First, he suffered primarily from serious head injuries, while the rest of his body remained 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, and ring were and are still missing. Fifth, his motorcycle was mostly undamaged, and not reflective of being in a serious, fatal traffic accident. It should also be noted that there were no bloodstains where he was found; his clothes were undamaged and did not show signs of Siregar falling off the motorcycle; and that his helmet is missing.

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

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, forest encroachment, among others. One of his more recent cases involved a lawsuit against PT NSHE, the developer for the controversial Batang Toru Hydrodam. 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. Golfrid Siregar was extremely active in this case, and also filed a complaint to 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 this year, Siregar 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 regarding the investigator at Regional Police North Sumatra; the report raised concerns over the issuance of the Termination Letter of Investigation (SP3) related to his work on the lawsuit against the Batang Toru Hydropower dam. In September, he was invited by the Professional and Security Division (Propam) Mabes POLRI to provide additional clarification to his report, 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; 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.

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific urgently calls on the Indonesian government to take the following actions: 

1. Launch an independent, robust investigation immediately in order to ascertain the violation of human rights and freedom, in line with international standards under the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders (Article 9 – Section 5) passed by the United Nation on December 9, 1998.

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

3. Assign Police Headquarters (Mabes POLRI) as lead investigators on Golfrid’s death and conduct the investigation in a public and transparent manner, given the existing conflict of interests within the regional police North Sumatran (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 criminalisation 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 programmes related to economic development. 

Golfrid Siregar’s untimely death occurs as part of a broader pattern of criminalisation 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 of arson experienced by Murdani, Director of WALHI West Nusa Tenggara. 

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific condemns any act of violence towards environmental and human rights defenders. We demand that the perpetrators behind such crimes be held accountable and justice be served. As such, we strongly call on the Indonesian government to take the above actions in order to ensure that no more lives will be lost in the future. 

For further information please reach: 

Zenzi Suhadi, Eksekutif Nasional WALHI

Emma Harvey, FoE Asia Pacific Communications Coordinator

Friends of the Earth (FoE) Asia Pacific is a collective of Asian and Oceanic FoE member groups. We are a regional structure of Friends of the Earth International, a federation of environmental organizations. There are currently 75 countries uniting over 2.2 million members and supporters. FoE Asia Pacific works closely with grassroots communities and indigenous peoples to amplify the voices of those on the frontlines, to promote environmental and social justice.