The Allegation Of Human Rights Violation In The Case of SMB Farmers In Jambi

The Allegation Of Human Rights Violation In The Case of SMB Farmers In Jambi


YLBHI Investigation Findings

The Allegation Of Human Rights Violation In The Case of SMB Farmers In Jambi


 A. Introduction

The Case of the Arrest of hundreds of farmers of Serikat Mandiri Batanghari (SMB), in Jambi was published in the media since 19th of July 2019 at the same time when a video that reveals the torture of two Indonesian National Armed Forces (Indonesian: Tentara Nasional Indonesia/TNI) carried out by two unscrupulous members of the SMB. It was reported that for this incident SMB members were arrested. Following the arrest, another video has circulated online that shows dozens of men face-down, hands tied behind his back with duct tape, some of them were half-naked (with very few clothes on). The video circulated also revealed that a TNI member kicked one of them that was arrested. While in another video, it appears a man who later is known as Muslim, the head of the SMB Farmers in a battered state, not wearing a shirt, face full of blood, hands tied behind his back and his eyes were covered.

In response to the circulated video, a civil society consisting of organizations, academics, and individuals who have attention to law enforcement and human rights called for protest through a release on July 21st, 2019. This release reminds the Police so they must stop acts of violence, torture and inhumane treatment towards those who were arrested. If there was an alleged crime, then the Police must conduct all necessary processes in accordance with procedures and respect human rights where torture and use of force are not permitted according to the law and human rights.

YLBHI saw how strong the Police version of the narrative had graced the news since the beginning of the incident to date. It is said SMB is an armed criminal, a fraudster who sells land to the public, drugs and other suspicions. A few days after the event the arrest of SMB members surfaced in the media, YLBHI went to the area to investigate and verify the information. This report is based on the results of the investigation. YLBHI acknowledges that this report is far from perfect due to its various obstacles faced such as the closure of access for meeting with the suspect, our difficulties in finding members of SMB who were feeling traumatized, frightened, and were forcibly sent back to his hometown. Even if someone stays around the location, they were scared since the authorities are still carrying out some sweeping in the area.

  1. The Police’s narrative that continuously corners SMB, according to YLBHI, was quite effective to stigmatize and silence the SMB. Nobody dares to reveal the violent event they have experienced. Even up to the time this report was compiled, there is no refutation received from members of the SMB, which consists of more than 5,000 families, based on the results of the YLBHI investigation. May this report be sufficient to provide an initial overview of the authorities in the hope that it will encourage a quick response to explore findings, either executive, legislative and state oversight institutions such as The National Commission on Human Rights (Indonesian: Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia / Komnas HAM), National Commission on Violence Against Women (Indonesian: Komnas Perempuan) and also Ombudsman.


  1. To the friends of civil society, either non-governmental organizations, academics and individual human rights observer, to the local community in Batanghari, Tebo, Tanjung Jabung Barat, Suku Anak Dalam, farmer unions such as PPJ, SMB and others (that possibly are not yet identified by YLBHI) who might read this report, YLBHI realize the root of this problem is not far from land conflicts, but whatever happens, the practice of violence and torture are violations of human rights. YLBHI respects the legal process carried out by the Police against SMB members suspected of committing a crime. But keep in mind that the Police are not judges, Police has no right whatsoever to declare a person guilty until the court’s decision has its permanent legal force. Therefore, the arrested SMB members must be treated in accordance with the presumption of innocence principle. The actions of a few people cannot be equalized to all members of the SMB which consists of thousands of families. Hopefully this report will be read and heard by  the SMB members everywhere they are located, whether they are currently detained, or those who were tortured from 18th  to 19th of  July 2019, the families of the suspects who were forced to stay silent, those who ran away into the forests for hiding, forced to return to their hometown or who were forced to stay at home with relatives, they must know that they are not alone in this matter.


B. Case Of Jambi Based On Police Narrative In News Media

Police statements regarding the arrest began to appear since 19th July 2019. From these statements, the narrative built by the Police may be seen. Some of the narrative for example;

  1. The incident of arrests against SMB was carried out because of an act of persecution against the TNI and Polri by the SMB when the TNI and Polri accompanied KLHK to extinguish forest fires.
  2. SMB that was led by Muslim is not a farmer group but a criminal armed group who commit fraud to the community that is occupying the land of PT WKS and conduct land buying and selling with the community.
  3. SMB has seized land owned by local communities by bringing people from outside Jambi.
  4. Drug allegations.


C. YLBHI Findings

  1. Problems Of Capture And Violence

YLBHI has found that there were unauthorized arrests of hundreds of member of the Serikat Mandiri Batanghari (SMB). If you look closely at the news report in Media, the Police confessed to an initial arrest of 41 SMB members and an additional 18 SMB members.

  1. Currently, 59 members of SMB were set as suspects. It was said that the arrest was carried out because of SMB members were carrying out persecutions against current members of the TNI and Polri who were extinguishing forest fires.
  2. YLBHI’s findings have a 1-week time span since the TNI’s persecution and the arrest event took place. Therefore, in this case, the legal process cannot be said in the framework of ‘caught red-handed’, but must be in accordance with the applicable law and regulation.


YLBHI has found the following alleged violations as follows:

  1. There was an unauthorized arrest of hundreds of people by hundreds of police officers and TNI on July 18th and July 19th, 2019 without presenting the letter of assignment, arrest warrant, and without ever being legally summoned according to the applicable law;
  2. SMB members after being arrested were not brought to the Police Station but allegedly was taken to the company’s office and briefly detained at the Wira Karya Sakti Company’s office (WKS) that belongs to the Sinar Mas Group which has been in conflict with the farmers;
  3. There has been torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatments towards of hundreds of SMB members;
  4. There have been burnings of the SMB office, the demolition of thousands of lodges of SMB members, self-destructing social facilities that were built by SMB community such as House of Worship, 1 mosque, two churches, the foundation of the mosque that had begun to be built, kindergarten school, foundation junior to high school. Residents’ houses were burned, vehicles were lost without confiscation letter and a resident’s car were burned;
  5. There were restrictions on family and outsiders to meet with the suspects. Until this report was released, families are prohibited from meeting with the suspect. YLBHI went directly to the Regional Police on July 25th, 2019 and met the Jambi Regional Police Director General, but was prohibited from meeting the suspect for reasons that states YLBHI are not the family, even though Article 60 of KUHP states that it is the right of the suspect to be able to meet with other interested parties

These violations are further explained in chronological terms as the following:

Persecution of TNI members on July 13th, 2019

– Around the first week of July 2019, SMB through the SMB Leader (Muslim) received a message from the Jambi Province Conflict Resolution Integrated Team that they would step down to the location between July 12th and 13th 2019. The plan for this arrival was later discussed by Muslim with members of the SMB and other administrators. SMB think the message from the Jambi Provincial Integrated Conflict Resolution Team was not professional because they do not confirm the date, they doubt the seriousness of the parties Jambi Province Conflict Resolution Integrated Team and feel manipulated. However, since the SMB has agreed to wait until July 13th and if it does not come on the 13th, then it means the Provincial Conflict Resolution Integrated Team Jambi is not serious and SMB will gather members for district VIII to be emptied. Long before, SMB had attended a meeting in the Province, but at that time SMB was not given an opportunity to talk, the opportunity to talk was given more to the company;

– On July 13th, 2019, SMB awaited the arrival of the provincial team, but this team did not keep their promise, around 15 members of SMB were then sent to District VIII, company camp and ask the company to empty the location. The TNI at the location disagreed and were angered, they also prohibited the efforts of emptying the location. The TNI members said, “this belongs to WKS” or “this belongs to RI.” Even at that time there were officers who fired weapons to threaten and there was one tribal child got kicked;

– These dozens of SMB members returned to SMB Post (Post 1), meeting other SMB members. Hundreds of the SMB then came to District VIII and there was persecution against the TNI member. In that incident they also brought 1 box bullets found at the WKS office, police vests and police weapons;

– Around July 14th, 2019 the West Tanjung District Military Command invited SMB to make peace and requesting that the things that were taken by the SMB must be returned. Those were then handed over;

– On July 16th, 2019, the Jambi Province Conflict Resolution Integrated Team came to the SMB location and give directions. This was then responded by SMB and they felt that they have hope. The Integrated Conflict Resolution Team Province of Jambi asked SMB to re-register its members and ensure nobody was pretending to be SMB members and they immediately begin submitting their details. Afterward, SMB members were given a form to input identity, group name, address according to KTP and domicile address, affixed signature and passport photo; (this data is suspected of being used by members of the National Police for finding SMB people). Most have submitted their data to Post 1 but has not yet been handed over to the Conflict Resolution Integrated Team Jambi Province, it turns out that Post 1 had been burned which was allegedly carried out by the authorities and all SMB members were arrested on July 18 and 19 2019;


Chronology of the Arrest of the Leader of the SMB and dozens of SMB members on 18 July 2019.

Around 3.30 WIB, a helicopter passed by. At that time the SMB people were gathered at Post 1 and wondered why there was a helicopter. Shortly after, the police came and arrested people who were in the SMB office in Post 1, additionally, some are trampled, some are beaten, even the foods that are there are destroyed, facilities in Post 1 such as the telephone were also damaged, and motorcycle tires were leaked out. Even more embarrassing, there were members of the SMB who were arrested and stripped naked, fired with tear gas, the authorities also released rubber bullets and sharp bullets. Muslim himself was not in the location at the time, he was in the middle of a business. Not long after, Muslims came. He was confused for quite a while before he could recover from his confusion, he was immediately arrested and tied.


A more detailed chronology of July 18, 2019, has not yet been obtained because of the lack of information from SMB members that were hunted down, and dozens of people were arrested without access to meet outsiders. People’s arrests and hunting occurred on July 19th, 2019. Hundreds of Police and The TNI arrested SMB members, mostly women and children, they were held captive by the Police and they were moved from District VIII WKS Company’s Office, some were later detained in the Regional Police, some of them were forcibly moved from the police station to their hometown after being held captive for 2 days.


Chronology of the Arrest of the Leader of the SMB and dozens of SMB members on 18 July 2019

– Dozens of SMB members gathered at Post 1 and waited for members The SMB who was arrested 1 day before were sent home;

– Around 4 pm the members of SMB saw the helicopter go around and round (low altitude) above the post 1 for 3 times then the helicopter rotated and left the location.

– About 30 minutes later or at 16.30 the officers with combat vehicles standby along the way up to Post 1. Hundreds of police officers went towards Post 1, there are about 5 units of police cars, buses, not to mention the double cabin Estrada cars starting from Mobile Brigade, 1 minibus, not to mention the fleet using motorbikes. Then there was a member of the SMB who shouted at the arrival of the authorities, the situation and condition of the members of SMB in Post 1 became chaotic. Some ran to the forest, some surrendered waiting for the arrival of the authorities. In Post 2, the residents were scared, the people immediately became frantic, the children started screaming in fear “lay down, bombs coming, bombs coming”. There were those who ran into the forest, some were hiding to wait;

– Arriving at Post 1, the authorities ordered the SMB people to undress, all cellphones confiscated, hands tied with tape, pushed and kicked and forced to enter the car. The posts were then burned along with their properties.

– In Post 1 alone, there are no less than 60 men who were arrested. Around 8 to 10 women and there were also about 7 children who were taken along, there were even 2 toddlers who were still breastfeeding (still in a sling). They were put in a car that holds about 40-60 people. Not to mention the possibility of people arrested in the streets;

– Motorbikes (dozens) belonging to the community members were brought into two police cars, some of the motorbikes were thrown into the road;

– The people who got arrested were brought into the office of PT. WKS around 20:00 and more police and military people comes; Some women that were already inside the car were the first one leaving the location, but because of the fog, it was difficult to see cars in the front.

– Arriving in District VIII, hundreds of police and TNI were seen waiting. Not less than 40 fleet cars in sight. When the SMB members arrived, they were asked by the Police some questions like “Where are they from?”  and when they answered the question “From SMB, Sir” they were immediately kicked.

– After entering, they were told to sit down, the authorities said to look for those involved in the beating of the head of the village and the destruction of the WKS office. The police from the regional office then take turns and entered the room, while the police, the TNI, all of these officers were on standby around the WKS area and set up tents.

– Those people who were arrested were shown videos of the destruction of the WKS office, photos of events from clashing with the head of the village. The authorities said, “These are the offices that you are ruining”. People who look similar to those on the video, some are not even involved in the persecution of soldiers were got separated and they were tortured more severely. Their inner ankle pressed hardly using a hoe, their body parts were hit with the hand. Then they were taken into the room and got tortured until bleeding, more than 10 people.

– People who were not in the video were placed in one room, too afraid to speak after the police left, the TNI lectured them;

– While women and children were placed together in one room, they were all crying because seeing their husband and sons got beaten, and hearing how the men got tortured;

– For people who were suspected of being involved in the persecution, the next day around 9 or 10 am were brought to Jambi, possibly were placed in the Mako Brimob Regional Police Office in Jambi and until now could not be found.

– While others whose pictures were not shown on the video were still being held at the WKS office. For 2 days and 2 nights they were placed in the WKS office and were being returned to their respective addresses according to their ID cards, according to the victim’s confession whose name is confidential, “we were told to make up names according to our respective addresses, did a small mistake then we were hit”. Alternately, they got lectured “don’t come here anymore, buy the legitimate ones, just don’t buy illegal ones.” “You guys want to make a country within our country.”  The people stayed quiet because the officers were there complete with weapons, real weapons “;

– On Saturday night or after two days of detention, SMB members claimed, “Around 30 people were forced to be sent back to their hometown according to their ID cards, we were passed over from one sectoral police office (Indonesian: Polsek) to another Polsek. Clothes wore only the ones on our body, and who knows what would we eat later until we reach our hometown.”


  1. Officers Cleaning The Land That Occupied by SMB

After the arrest, the police continued sweeping. Residents were prohibited from entering the location. Whereas their property and identity like their birth certificate, driving license were still left on their lodges. The social facilities in Post 1 that were built independently by SMB members were burned and torn down. YLBHI has received information about the clearing of land from residents on July 24th, 2019. Residents saw the lodges were already torn down, some even got burned. But because the police continued to sweep, YLBHI had difficulty in seeing the location firsthand, but this has been confirmed by the police as reported by the media on July 25th, 2019 which says the Police with the Provincial Government Integrated Team have flattened the land. Until now there is no clarification from Integrated Team whether they were involved or not. This action of clearing land confirms the allegation behind the arrest of SMB members who have a greater interest in this matter concerning land. It is increasingly clear that this case cannot be separated from land issues. SMB has controlled the land since 2018 on land that belongs to PT. Wirakarya Sakti (WKS). Before establishing the SMB, Muslim the leader of the SMB was incorporated in the organization of the Jambi Farmers Association (PPJ) in an effort to fight for land. PT. WKS is one of the companies that are incorporated in the Sinar Mas Group, it operates in five regencies in Jambi Province with an area of ​​more than 200,000 ha. The WKS company is known to have allegedly controlled the land until it exited the concession. It is then fought by farmers through their Jambi Farmers Association (PPJ). PPJ struggles to regain land that was taken by WKS. In the midst of these struggles suddenly in 2017 KLHK issuing social forestry permits under the HTR scheme to five cooperatives. Those people are not the people who fought for the land and are concerned about the issuance of this permit and there was never any communication with the original farmer who fought for the land. This cooperative is partnering with the WKS company with a profit-sharing system. Technically they do not control the land but receive the net at harvest from WKS.

YLBHI received information about clashes with the cooperatives, some of which happened before the time of the TNI persecution event. From the information obtained, initially, It is suspected that the company reported to the cooperative that it could not harvest because of this land is controlled by SMB. The members of the cooperative then come to the location which is controlled by SMB. There was a clash.

Muslim who previously joined the PPJ then set up the SMB. Initially, SMB consisted of Batanghari local community members, but throughout its progress, many members left. Many have speculated on this situation, but from the statement of SMB members who were met said that one of the reasons for withdrawing was because some of them feel that it was impossible for them to succeed because the struggle is against the “elephant” company and the State. When many members left, SMB agreed to open up opportunities for migrants from Lampung, Batak, Java, Jambi Province (outside Batanghari), Riau and other provinces to join in SMB. It is the sentiment of these migrants who are narrated as well. The important question is whether those farmers who came from various regions came because of needs, poverty or because of greed. What is clear that from reading the document belong to the SMB which contains “based on SMB/Serikat Mandiri Batanghari statutes/bylaws” purpose and objective – is to liberate the people farmers from poverty, and lack of information and knowledge ”

The last situation before the arrest of more than 5000 families that joined the SMB. Each of them has controlled 1.5 ha of land that they use to set up huts, farm and establish social facilities. In the beginning, there was no fee collected for people who join SMB. Throughout its progress, people who want to join were paying around 1.5 to 3 million but not in the sense of buying land. Funds are collected for self-help building social and other facilities. From the money collected, they have built a house of worship (1 mosque, two churches, school, even offices). SMB itself consists of more than 5,000 families and none of them are directly connected to the leader. In Post 1 alone there are more than 250 groups and in Post 2 around 40 groups. Each group consists of 30 up to 50 families. Not all are directly connected to the leader. Member of SMB itself does not deny there are amongst them who violate the provisions, for example, charging more from the community. this kind of person is usually fired right away. This brief chronology wants to illustrate that there are many interests in the land which is controlled by SMB. However, no matter what the problem is, everyone must not be arrested unauthorizedly, tortured and treated inhumanely. If we are talking about land, Indonesia has a land separation system and what is placed on it. Even if these lands do not belong to SMB but the State must not cause any damage, burning plants and buildings belonging to the community without subpoena until court order. The case of TNI persecution has nothing to do with land, but why now the target is the land. People are forbidden from entering houses and their houses got burned, social facilities were all destroyed. The question is who the Police, the TNI and the government were working for? It gives the impression that the main purpose of the arrest was for emptying the land and removing evidence of community control. The persecution carried out by several people cannot be justified to thousands of SMB members who are mostly just ordinary farmers. Who came because of poverty, and farmed because of hunger and in hopes to improve their life.

D. Conclusion:

  1. Strong allegations of human rights violations against SMB members that were arrested, tortured and prohibited from meeting with family and other parties. Human rights violations also allegedly occurred and until now continues to be against members SMB in the form of sweeping, prohibition of entry into the land. Most of them are only ordinary farmers who come and farm because they are hungry and not because of greed;
  2. The root of this problem is the conflict of land which also involves the company of Wira Karya Sakti (owned by Sinar Mas Group), and the case of TNI persecution has been used as a tool for clearing the land and expelling all of SMB farmers.
  3. The Provincial Government through the Conflict Resolution Team, in this case, should be suspected of neglect in resolving agrarian conflicts in areas controlled by SMB and have sparked off an unconducive atmosphere to violent incidents. Besides that, KLHK policy that regulates HTR permits without involving the participation of farmers, especially those who has long contributed to the complexity of the conflict;

Jakarta, August 5th, 2019

Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation / Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia


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