INDONESIA: Religious intolerance and discrimination an ongoing concern
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 21, 2008
A written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre to the 7th session of the UN Human Rights Council
INDONESIA: Religious intolerance and discrimination an ongoing concern
Under Article 29, the Constitution of Indonesia guarantees “all persons the freedom of worship, each according to his/her own religion and belief.” Despite this constitutional guarantee, as has been mentioned in an earlier submission (1) by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), religious minorities in Indonesia continue to suffer multiple forms of discrimination. The government, for its part, has failed to protect their constitutional rights. Worse still, by its reluctance to take appropriate action to punish the perpetrators of related crimes, the State has tacitly allowed various forms of religious discrimination and attacks to continue. As the freedom of religious belief and expression is a fundamental human right that is linked to many other rights, violations of this right are interlinked with those of other rights, all of which in turn relate to the failure of the rule of law in Indonesia.
The ALRC continues to receive information concerning numerous violent attacks on religious minorities in Indonesia. The ALRC has been making repeated submissions concerning the violations of religious freedom since 2005, yet there is no indication of any attempt by the State to address this issue.
The religious leaders in Indonesia that met in December 2007 to discuss ongoing threats to religious pluralism in the country were of the view that the government has allowed and even endorsed violent acts against certain religious groups.
Despite being a State Party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), no definite stand has been taken against religious discrimination. The ALRC recalls that Article 18 of the UDHR proclaims that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
In January 2008, the Muslim Lawyers Team (TPM) and several Islamic organizations vowed to send a letter to the President requesting that the Ahmadiyah sect be banned, and that failing which, lawsuits will be filed at regional courts across the country.
Since the issuing of an edict by the Indonesian Council of Ulamas branding Ahmadiyahs as being heretics in November 2005, there have been a number of attacks on their places of worship and prayer, in addition to attacks on members of the sect. Several cases of attacks that were reported to the police went unheeded. This inaction on the part of the law enforcement authorities has been interpreted as approval, thus resulting in increased violence and the attempt by a number of Muslim groups to force the President to ban the sect.
On December 18th, Ahmadiyah followers in Kuningan, West Java were attacked by about a thousand people, leading to three people being wounded, two mosques being destroyed and eight houses of Ahmadiyah followers being damaged.
In a recent incident at least 49 people who attacked a mosque and houses belonging to the Ahmadiyah sect in Argapura district in Majalengka Regency, West Java, have surrendered to the police due to the intervention of the Indonesian Ulema Council. There is, however, uncertainty regarding the commitment of the police to prosecute them according the Article 170 of the Criminal Procedure Code for causing damage and violence.
Adding insult to injury, it was reported in mid-December that the government has established a monitoring team to supervise the controversial Ahmadiyah sect. After a series of attacks on the group and its properties, the sect was compelled to issue a statement containing a “12 point explanation,” which also included the acknowledgement of Muhammad as the final prophet. Thus, instead of providing the freedom of belief and practice, the State intervened to impose the religion of the majority and further created a monitoring team to make sure that its will is adhered to.
Indonesia’s Christian community has also suffered from repeated attacks from 2005 until the present. In one reported incident, about 30 self-appointed Islamic vigilantes are alleged to have raided a house that was suspected of being a Christian place of worship, in Citeureup Village, Bandung in the Indonesian province of West Java, on Monday 19th November, 2007. The owner of the house, Ranto Gunawan Simamora, reportedly told reporters that dozens of people raided the house and went directly to the living room, which is normally used for Christian gatherings and worship.
In a separate incident in early October, residents and officials of Tambora in West Jakarta prevented Catholics from holding services in a 40-year-old church located there.
On September 2, a house that was used as a church in the Pondok Sukatani Permai housing estate, Sukatani, Tangerang, Western Java, was damaged in an attack by about 300 Muslims. One report states that about 200 people were in the house attending a regular Sunday service when a crowd of 300 surrounded the church and demanded that the service stop. When parishioners refused, the mob threw rocks and pieces of wood at the house, slightly injuring both the 50-year-old pastor, Jao Lolok Pasaribu, and a 36-year-old churchgoer, P. Panjaitan, in the head.
The Asian Legal Resource Centre would like to reiterate the recommendations that it has made previously and call on the Human Rights Council to remind the Government of Indonesia of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect the freedom of belief, worship and the right to redress of victims in case of violations, as envisaged under by Article 2 of the Convention, given the unwillingness on the part of the government to address the issue to date. Moreover, the government must create an effective inter-religious body with a mandate to conduct investigations and give recommendations to the prosecutor general to take legal action against perpetrators of abuses, where necessary, as well as on how to revise legislation that runs contrary to the right to the freedom of religion. The Human rights Council should take all steps necessary to engage the Government of Indonesia in tackling these concerns and the ALRC sincerely believes that its input could lead to positive developments that would help to reverse the serious decline in the enjoyment of religious freedom in Indonesia in recent times.
1 Please see the ALRC submission to the 62nd session of the Commission on Human Rights at: http://www.alrc.net/doc/rtf/chr62/ALRC-11e-Religious_intolerance_in_Indonesia.rtf
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About the ALRC: Religious intolerance and discrimination an ongoing concern is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.