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HRW: Letter to President Yudhoyono on Indonesia’s Human Rights Commitments

June 9, 2011

Human Rights Watch
June 8, 2011

Letter to President Yudhoyono on Indonesia’s Human Rights Commitments

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Merdeka Palace
Jakarta, Indonesia

Via facsimile, email

Dear President Yudhoyono,

Congratulations on Indonesia’s election to the United Nations Human
Rights Council. UN General Assembly resolution 60/251, which
established the Human Rights Council, specified that members are to
"uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human
rights," and "fully cooperate with the Council." We believe it is
essential that countries that are members of the Human Rights Council
adhere to these criteria.

Over the course of the last decade, Indonesia has taken many important
steps to move from an authoritarian state to an emerging,
rights-respecting democracy. We commend your support for
reconstruction in Aceh and for the anti-corruption commission’s
prosecution of graft cases involving government officials and public

However, a number of serious human rights concerns remain,
particularly with respect to the rights to freedom of expression,
peaceful assembly, and religion. If left unaddressed, these challenges
could seriously undermine Indonesia’s stability and democratic

Indonesia has made significant pledges to the UN General Assembly
outlining its human rights record and voluntary commitments. In
meeting those pledges and commitments, Human Rights Watch asks your
government to implement the following substantive reforms to better
protect and promote human rights.

Freedom of Religion

In its voluntary pledges, Indonesia said it is "underpinned by the
principle of religious freedom and tolerance" and is "living proof
that democracy and Islam can coexist peacefully, harmoniously and
productively." However, longstanding impunity for religious violence
in Indonesia has fostered larger and more brutal attacks by Islamist
militants against religious minorities, particularly the Ahmadiyah
community. In the worst such attack, on February 6, 2011, Islamist
militants attacked an Ahmadiyah house in Cikeusik, western Java,
killing three Ahmadiyah and seriously wounding five others. Twelve
people are currently standing trial for the attack, however none of
the accused is charged with murder, and only one is charged with
assault causing death. Already, at least two witnesses, including the
main suspect Ujang M. Arif, have recanted their testimonies. Lawyers
for the defense have asked inappropriate and irrelevant questions of
witnesses in an apparent attempt to intimidate them, with no
intervention from the judges.

The Indonesian government has often failed to protect members of
religious minorities from discrimination and violence. Laws and
policies often contribute to this violence through criminalizing the
practice of religion that deviates from the central tenets of one of
the country’s six officially recognized religions.

We urge you to:

* Revoke the national anti-Ahmadiyah 2008 decree, which bars public
propagation of the Ahmadiyah faith;
* Void provincial decrees that ban activities by the Ahmadiyah
religious community, and act to block similar laws in the future;
* Take all necessary measures to stop violence and discrimination
against the Ahmadiyah and other religious minorities;
* Hold to account the perpetrators of threats and violence against
the Ahmadiyah and other religious minorities; and
* Ensure international legal standards are met in the trial of
those charged in the deadly February 2011 attacks in Cikeusik.

Freedom of Expression

In the years immediately after Suharto was forced to step down from
power, Indonesia made huge strides in opening space for free
expression and the media. But recent years have seen some troubling
developments. Indonesian officials continue to enforce a number of
laws that criminalize the peaceful expression of political, religious,
and other views. These laws include offenses in Indonesia’s criminal
code such as treason or rebellion (makar) and "inciting hatred"
(haatzai artikelen), which have been used repeatedly against peaceful
political activists, including those from the Moluccas and Papua. More
than a hundred such activists are currently behind bars in Indonesia
for peaceful acts of free expression.

Criminal libel, slander, and "insult" laws are also problematic, as
they have been invoked against individuals who have raised
controversial issues concerning public officials.

Your government has pledged that, "Indonesia continues to strengthen
its effort to further promote and protect the human rights and
fundamental freedoms of its people." To that end, we urge you to:

* Amend or repeal laws that criminalize peaceful political expression;
* Repeal laws that criminalize defamation and "insulting" public
officials, which Indonesian authorities have used to silence
anti-corruption activists, human rights defenders, and citizens who
publicly aired consumer complaints or allegations of misconduct; and
* Release the dozens of political prisoners-primarily from Papua
and the Moluccas-imprisoned for engaging in nonviolent demonstrations,
raising flags, and displaying pro-independence symbols.

Accountability for Abuses by Military Forces

While Indonesia has implemented significant reforms to the military in
recent years, members of Indonesia’s security forces-in particular,
Detachment 88 and Kopassus-continue to engage in serious abuses. Human
Rights Watch research has revealed a pattern of arbitrary detention
and ill-treatment-particularly in the provinces of Papua and West
Papua-and the failure of military courts to investigate adequately or
to prosecute alleged serious human rights abuses by military
personnel. In the few military trials for which information is
publicly available, military prosecutors brought relatively
insignificant charges, and any sentences handed down by military
judges have been extremely lenient. For instance, in a recent case
where soldiers tortured two Papuans for three days, some of which was
captured on film, a military tribunal convicted three soldiers, but
sentenced them to terms of only 8 to 10 months.

As noted in your voluntary pledges, Indonesia has taken an important
step by signing the International Convention for the Protection of All
Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Your pledges state that
"Indonesia national legislations and regulations are harmonized in
accordance with those instruments." Under the convention, Indonesia is
obligated to investigate alleged disappearances effectively, prosecute
those responsible, and provide a proper remedy for victims, including
the relatives of disappeared persons. We welcome your government’s
commitment in the voluntary pledges to "step up its national effort
and internal coordination toward ratification of some remaining key
international human rights treaties," especially the Convention
against Enforced Disappearance.

We urge you to:

* Ensure that those members of the Indonesian military implicated
in serious human rights violations-including those involving command
responsibility-are credibly and impartially investigated and
disciplined or prosecuted as appropriate;
* Revive a bill proposed in parliament that would provide civilian
criminal court jurisdiction over military personnel responsible for
offenses against civilians;
* Establish an independent and credible investigation of recent
allegations that members of the police, including members of
Detachment 88, tortured suspected separatists in their custody in
August 2010; and
* Implement parliament’s 2009 recommendation to open an
investigation into the emblematic case of the enforced disappearance
of 13 students in the late-1990s.

Cooperation with Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council

In its voluntary pledges and commitments submitted to the UN General
Assembly, Indonesia pledged to "continue to work and fully cooperate
with the United Nations human rights mechanisms." In this spirit, we
encourage you to take the following steps to fulfill Indonesia’s

* Support the prompt ratification of the International Convention
on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of
Their Families, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities, and the International Convention for the Protection of
All Persons from Enforced Disappearance;
* Respond immediately to pending requests from special procedures
of the Human Rights Council; in particular, those from the Working
Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the special
rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the
special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and the special
rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;
* As a matter of principle, extend an effective standing invitation
to all special procedures to visit Indonesia; and
* Continue to implement recommendations from Indonesia’s 2008
Universal Periodic Review (UPR), especially those related to combating
impunity and eliminating torture and ill-treatment.

Human Rights Watch once again welcomes Indonesia to the Human Rights
Council. Indonesia has professed its desire to support the promotion
of democracy and human rights in Asia and globally as a newly elected
member of the Human Rights Council. We look forward to working with
the Indonesian government so that it can become a leader in the
promotion of human rights internationally while addressing human
rights concerns at home.


Elaine Pearson
Deputy Director, Asia Division

Juliette de Rivero
Geneva Director

H.E. Hasan Kleib, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the United Nations

H.E. Dr. Makarim Wibisono, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to
the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva

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