Borneo: Freedom for Willem Hengki – an open letter to the court
Jun 14, 2022
The villagers of Kinipan on Borneo have been resisting the clearing of their forests for palm oil for years. Since January 2022, village chief Willem Hengki has been in jail on a trumped-up embezzlement charge. 72 organizations are calling for his release in an open letter to the court.
In the run-up to the sentencing of Willem Hengki, village chief of Kinipan village in Borneo, 72 environmental and human rights organizations have addressed the court and demanded his unconditional release, saying the embezzlement charge is trumped up.
In Indonesia, Kinipan has become synonymous with resistance to the destruction of forests for oil palm plantations. Rainforest Rescue has reported on the conflict and supports the #SaveKinipan movement.
The following is a translation by Rainforest Rescue of the original Indonesian letter:
Open letter to the court in Palangkaraya
Freedom for Willem Hengki!
Indonesia is once again witnessing brutality under the guise of law enforcement. Kinipan village chief Willem Hengki, a man known for his commitment to indigenous rights, is accused of corruption. The arguments and evidence presented by the law enforcement authorities are not genuine, but strengthen the impression that manipulation has taken place. This case can only be seen as an attempt to silence critical voices in the population.
The judges of the Palangkaraya Corruption Court will deliver the verdict against the accused on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. The public prosecutor is calling for a prison sentence of one year and six months. His fellow citizens, however, consider Willem Hengki's actions to have been right. As the village head of Kinipan, he provided funds for the construction of a village road and paid for the work once the road was completed. However, shortly after the payment, he was arrested by the police in January 2022 and brought to court, with the authorities claiming that he had acted unlawfully. However, the accusation that Hengki caused financial damage to the state is merely a subjective assessment without any concrete evidence.
The judiciary's issues with Willem Hengki can only be understood if one knows about his successes in Kinipan. He has actively campaigned for the rights of indigenous people suffering from deforestation by a large palm oil company. Unfortunately, the regent of the Lamandau district remains passive and does nothing to protect local people. The Hengki case has been constructed on his inaction. It is simply inconceivable that the payment from the village treasury is the real reason for the case against Willem Hengki.
As the trial draws to a close, we would like to remind the judges to be objective, professional and independent when deciding Hengki's case. There are at least two things to consider:
First, Article 5(1) of the Judiciary Act, which emphasizes that judges must research, follow and understand the meaning of law and the community's sense of justice. As was pointed out several times during the trial, the construction of the road in the village of Kinipan is solely for the benefit of the community and not for that of Hengki, as claimed by the law enforcement authorities.
Second, the judges' ruling will affect the climate for Indonesian democracy. As explained above, Hengki, as village chief of Kinipan, is known as a figure who consistently works to protect indigenous rights. If found guilty, it is almost certain that advocacy for indigenous rights in other regions will be overshadowed by similar practices of coercion to prosecute.
We therefore call on the Palangkaraya Corruption Court to clear Willem Hengki of all charges.
Jakarta, June 14, 2022
- Busyro Muqoddas (Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission, 2010- 2011)
- Bambang Widjojanto (Second Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission, 2011-2015).
- Abraham Samad (Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission, 2011- 2015).
- Saut Situmorang (Second Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission, 2015-2019).
- Febri Diansyah (Spokesperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission, 2016-2019)
- Indonesia Corruption Watch
- Lembaga Studi dan Advokasi Masyarakat (ELSAM)
- FITRA, National Secretariat
- LBH Palangka Raya (legal aid organization)
- Yayasan Pusaka Bentala Rakyat
- WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia)
- Greenpeace Indonesia
- Henry Thomas Simarmata (Indonesian Institute for Law & Human Rights)
- debtWATCH Indonesia
- JPIC Kalimantan (Justitia et Pax)
- Akar Law Office
- PBHI Nasional (legal aid organization)
- Extinction Rebellion Indonesia
- Jeda Untuk Iklim (Pause for the Climate)
- Partai Hijau Indonesia (Indonesian Green Party)
- Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia (legal aid organization)
- SAKSI FH Unmul
- Bangsa Mahasiswa
- MCW Malang
- Nomaden Institute Samarinda
- Aksi kamisan kaltim
- Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN) (Indigenous Peoples Alliance)
- Save Our Borneo (SOB)
- AMAN Kalimantan Tengah
- WALHI Kalimantan Tengah
- IM57+ Institute
- Phatri Kediri
- Papanjati Jawa timur
- Sertawangi Banyuwangi
- Sawit Watch
- Solidaritas Advokat Indonesia (SAI)
- Wahyu Wagiman (Managing Director BHR Institute)
- Public Interest Lawyer Network (PIL-NET)
- International NGOs Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID)
- LBH Surabaya
- Pukat UGM
- TuK Indonesia
- The Institute for Ecosoc Rights
- Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI)
- Kaoem Telapak
- Parlin Bayu Hutabarat, S.H, M.H (Law Office Parlin Hutabarat & Partners)
- Papua Forest Watch
- Jaringan Pemantau Independen Kehutanan (JPIK)
- Auriga Nusantara
- LBH Respublica
- Pusat Studi Anti-Korupsi & Demokrasi (PUSAD) UM Surabaya
- LMND Kota Palangka Raya.
- Yayasan Betang Borneo Indonesia
- BEM F. pertanian UPR
- Louise Theresia (Akademis UPR)
- Pusat Kajian Bantuan Hukum dan Anti Korupsi LPPM Universitas Palangka Raya
- Pantau Gambut
- WALHI JATIM
- Aliansi Selamatkan Malang Raya
- WALHI JATENG
- WALHI JOGJAKARTA
- WALHI DKI JAKARTA
- WALHI BENGKULU
- WALHI MALUKU UTARA
- WALHI JAWA BARAT
- WALHI SULAWESI SELATAN
- Selamatkan Hutan Hujan (Rainforest Rescue)
- Agus Sutomo Teraju Foundation
- Moses Thomas - Masyarakat Adat.
- Tariu Borneo Bangkule Rajakng (TBBR)