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Rights Group Calls on Clinton to Address Injustice During Indonesia Trip
Lauren Zumbach | July 20, 2011
Human Rights Watch has called on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to focus on military abuses, freedom of expression and religious minorities’ rights during her visit to Indonesia from Thursday to Sunday.
In a statement released to Clinton on Tuesday, the rights group’s deputy Asia director, Elaine Pearson, criticized the United States for failing to promote action to address “military atrocities” despite the fact that closer military ties between that country and Indonesia were to be “a reward for better behavior by Indonesian soldiers.”
The plan to increase military cooperation was announced last year during a visit to Indonesia by then-US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
“This is an important opportunity for Clinton to speak publicly about the need for genuine reform,” Pearson said in the statement, which described cases like the May 2010 torture of two farmers in Papua. Though soldiers were captured on video kicking the victims and touching one’s genitals with a piece of burning wood, none of the soldiers were charged with torture, instead receiving eight- to ten-month sentences for “disobeying orders.”
In addition to concerns over military abuses, the letter asked Clinton to address Indonesian laws inhibiting free expression and the continued imprisonment of over 100 activists.
Pearson added that laws against dissent and attacks on religious minorities were “getting worse,” citing attacks on Ahmadiyah mosques in the wake of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s 2008 decree restricting the Islamic sect’s activities.
“If the US really wants to support Indonesia as a rights-respecting democracy, then Clinton should not shy away from stressing the importance of rolling back practices that undermine freedom of religion and speech,” Pearson said.