Whither Human Rights?

Nov 30, 2012
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Ahmadis has been persecuted, but rights abuses between 1965-1998 remain unaddressed. Is there any hope for Papua?

1284 The parents of Ucok Siahaan are still waiting. PHOTO: Mark Wilson/IRIN"The mob was at least 1,000-strong. We [Ahmadis in the village] were outnumbered, so we ran, but I was captured," said Masihuddin. "They dragged me through a rice field, struck me in the waist with a machete and hit me with bamboo. They said they wanted to cut off my genitals."

It was only when Masihuddin called out to his assailants that he was a Muslim that the attack stopped. "They thought I was one of them, a Sunni," he said. Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam in Indonesia.

Three of Masihuddin's friends were killed in the attack. Perpetrators were sentenced to 3-6 months in prison, which Masihuddin said was not commensurate with the crime.

Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, director-general for human rights at the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, acknowledged the sentences were too lenient and suggested that law enforcers need to do more to protect minorities.

“On the ground there are now fundamentalist groups that blatantly threaten minorities,” she said. “The police have difficulties containing these groups, but they must try to deal with this violence.”

In 2008 the government issued a joint ministerial decree banning Ahmadis from disseminating their beliefs on the basis the reformist movement “deviated” from mainstream Islam in its teachings.

Hard-line groups have used the decree to justify attacks against Ahmadis, but Harkrisnowo said the decree was issued to protect Ahmadis.

“They aren’t allowed to publicly assemble for their own protection because if they do, they may incite violence against them,” she said.

But even without assembling for worship, they are still attacked, said Malik Saifurrahman, an Ahmadi from the island of Lombok some 1,200km east of Jakarta. Since 2002, his family house has been destroyed on four separate occasions - before it was completely burnt down in 2006.

"There were many attacks on houses, and about 300 Ahmadis were forced to move," said Saifurrahman, who added he did not know the identity of the attackers.

"I have now moved to Jakarta for study, but my family lives in a government refuge in Mataram [created] for Ahmadis who have had their homes burned down,” he said. "At first the government provided us with food and water, but now that has stopped."

Harkrisnowo said she did not know whether the authorities will re-house displaced Ahmadis.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom's 2012 report recorded that at least 50 Ahmadiyah places of worship have been vandalized and 36 forcibly closed since 2008, even though the Indonesian constitution guarantees freedom of religious expression.

But guaranteeing this constitutional freedom has been difficult for the state , said Harkrisnowo. “The central government needs to be more firm on this issue.”

Legal wrangling

The National Commission on Human Rights - known locally as Komnas HAM - is an independent, government-appointed commission to monitor violations, advocate on behalf of victims and launch abuse inquiries. The attorney-general’s office then investigates the allegations, except for those that took place before 2000, which are handled by an ad-hoc human rights court set up by presidential decree.

Kontras’s Azhar said Komnas HAM has recommended seven cases for government investigation through ad-hoc courts - all were rejected.

Harkrisnowo said lack of prosecutions for human rights abuses thus far is not due to lack of political will, but rather too-scant evidence.

“In each case, officials have looked at whether there is sufficient evidence, or whether there have been any errors made in terms of legal procedure, and each time have decided that no one can be found guilty,” she told IRIN.

Efforts to create other legal mechanisms to prosecute human rights abuses have stalled.

Next steps

The country’s Constitutional Court declared a 2006 law on Truth and Reconciliation unconstitutional because of a provision that made victim reparations conditional on amnesties being issued to perpetrators. The government is attempting to pass a new law.

Indonesia is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

But it has yet to sign or ratify the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the International Criminal Court in 2002.

Harkrisnowo said the government is preparing to ratify both the Rome Statute and the International Convention on Enforced Disappearances.

Source: IRIN