Indonesia: Rights Record under Scrutiny at UN

……. Over the past four years violence against religious minorities, especially the Ahmadiyah, has dramatically increased. ——-While the 2008 Ahmadi decree does not expressly forbid worship, local decrees enacted following the national decree go further in banning Ahmadiyah worship. Approximately 30 Ahmadi mosques have been closed by the authorities. Human Rights Watch and KontraS urged other countries to call on Indonesia to lift various decrees, including the 2008 anti-Ahmadiyah decree, that limit religious freedom


(Jakarta) – United Nations member states should urge Indonesia to adopt specific measures to ensure religious freedom, free expression, and accountability for abuses at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Indonesia at the UN Human Rights Council on May 23, 2012, Human Rights Watch and KontraS (the Commission for “The Disappeared” and Victims of Violence) said today.

The UPR, through which each UN member country is examined once every four years, will allow governments to review Indonesia’s human rights record and make recommendations for improvements.

“Countries should be asking Indonesia hard questions about why over the past four years violence and discrimination against religious minorities is getting worse, and why Indonesia continues to imprison peaceful activists,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The UPR should put Indonesia on the spot to adopt specific reforms rather than dancing around the issues.”

The Indonesian government’s report to the UN submitted for the UPR claims that numerous concrete steps have been taken to put into effect seven recommendations that Indonesia accepted from its last UPR review in 2008. These recommendations were to develop human rights education and training, sign and ratify various human rights instruments, support and protect the work of civil society, combat impunity by security forces, revise the Penal Code, and develop systems to improve and share best practices to support human rights. However the government’s report only paints a partial picture of the serious challenges that remain, especially regarding religious freedom, free expression, and accountability for serious abuses committed by security forces, Human Rights Watch and KontraS said.

Religious Freedom

On religious freedom, the Indonesian government report acknowledges issues concerning protection of the Ahmadis, who consider themselves Muslim but whom some Muslims consider heretics, as well as disputes regarding building places of worship, and problems some groups face in practicing their religion. The report asserts that the “government tirelessly promotes religious tolerance and harmony,” and that the blasphemy law and a 2008 Joint Ministerial Decree on Ahmadiyah “regulates the proselytization of the Ahmadis as well as the call for all people to forbid resort of violence against certain religious groups.”

However, in reality, over the past four years violence against religious minorities, especially the Ahmadiyah, has dramatically increased. According to the Setara Institute, which monitors religious freedom, religious attacks have increased from 135 in 2007, to 216 in 2010, and 244 in 2011. Indonesian authorities have consistently failed to adequately address increasing incidents of mob violence directed by militant Islamist groups against religious minorities in Java and Sumatra, including against the Ahmadiyah, Bahai, Christians, Shia Muslims, and smaller spiritual movements. In the worst attack, Islamist militants killed three Ahmadiyah in Banten province, western Java in February 2011, and the attackers who were prosecuted served at most six months in prison.

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  1. This reminds me when the 1974 change in Pakistan’s constitution and the 1984 ‘Marshall Law Ordinances’ were discussed in the UN’s ‘Sub-Committee for Human Rights’ in Geneva (Switzerland). The Canadian representative mentioned that ‘and in Pakistan we have a new form of Government-sponsored persecution…’. The Pakistan representative objected and wanted to have this paragraph removed. The Canadian insisted and asked for a vote. The vote was something like 20 against 3. Only China, Jordan and Pakistan voted against it. The Egyptian representative urgently needed a coffee outside. The Moroccan urgently had to make a phone call and absented himself as well when it came to the vote.

    One year later the whole issue came up at the main Human Rights Commission. This time Pakistan was well prepared and came with a large delegation. But no country wanted to submit the issue. Canada said ‘we will support it, if someone else tables it.’No one tabled it. It seemed that the USA did not want to embarrass Pakistan at the time.Every one followed the lead of the USA. Politics before Human Rights (as usual)!

    I think it was in 1981 or so … (the vote in Geneva).

    (please excuse me, I am just writing from memory).

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