Indonesia calls UN officials to criticism of new laws

JAKARTA, Dec 12 (Reuters) – Indonesia subpoenaed a United Nations official on Monday after the organization raised concerns about the threats to civil liberties posed by newly ratified revisions to its penal code, its foreign ministry said.

Indonesia’s parliament last week approved a revision of its penal code, which bans sex outside of marriage and cohabitation between unmarried couples, among other controversial revisions. Officials say it aims to uphold “Indonesian values” in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

The UN said the revised laws could erode press freedom, privacy and human rights in the world’s third-largest democracy.

Teuku Faizasyah, a foreign ministry spokesman, said the ministry subpoenaed the Jakarta-based UN coordinator about the comment, saying the organization should have consulted with the government before raising its concerns.

“They should have come to confer, just like other international representatives. We hope they don’t rush to express their opinions or if there isn’t enough information,” he said.

UN official Valerie Julliand did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The government has rushed to allay concerns expressed by tourist boards that the new laws, particularly on sex outside of marriage or cohabitation, could deter tourists from its shores.

Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, Indonesia’s Deputy Justice Minister, told reporters Monday the code “does not disturb” the interests of foreign investors or tourists as long as authorities comply with national guidelines, adding the government will spend the next three years on it to ensure compliance.

I Wayan Koster, the governor of the island of Bali, the hub of Indonesia’s tourism, noted in a statement Sunday that the new laws, which come into effect in three years, can only be prosecuted if a parent, spouse, a Filed a complaint or child.

Bali’s government would ensure that “marital status is not checked upon check-in at any tourist accommodation such as hotels, villas, apartments, guesthouses, lodges and spas,” Wayan said.

But the new code is “completely counterproductive” at a time when the economy and tourism were beginning to recover from the pandemic, Maulana Yusran, deputy head of Indonesia’s Tourism Industry Board, said last week.

Andreas Harsono, a senior Human Rights Watch researcher in Indonesia, said last week that the code “contains oppressive and vague provisions that open the door to invasions of privacy and selective enforcement, allowing police to extort bribes, lawmakers to harass political opponents and officials to jail ordinary bloggers”.

Reporting by Ananda Teresia, Stefanno Sulaiman and Stanley Widianto Editing by Ed Davies, Kanupriya Kapoor & Simon Cameron-Moore

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