Indonesia and Human Rights: democracy and pluralism in jeopardy


The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), an international human rights NGO with 164 member leagues across the world, together with KontraS and Imparsial, two leading Indonesian human rights NGOs, are releasing today a report on human rights in Indonesia, with a particular focus on the dire situation of minorities, be they religious, ethnic or sexual. Entitled Shadows and Clouds: Human Rights in Indonesia—Shady Legacy, Uncertain Future, this report is being launched barely days after a barbaric attack on 6 February on the Ahmadiyah community in Banten province that left three individuals dead, as well as attacks on 8 February on churches in Temanggung in Central Java.

Shadows and Clouds: Human Rights in Indonesia—Shady Legacy, Uncertain Future

The report offers a detailed analysis of the growing discrimination faced by minorities in the country and the consistent lack of proper response by the authorities. Attacks on minorities, particularly against the Ahmadiyah, often occur in the full presence of the police, which remains passive; very few attacks have led to arrests and prosecutions of culprits; the authorities often publicly blame the victims instead of the wrongdoers, thus publicly legitimizing and condoning authors of violence; the justice system is woefully inadequate to offer redress to victims. The Indonesian authorities are letting a climate of intolerance grow in the country, thus jeopardizing Indonesia’s traditionally pluralistic religious and social fabric and undermining the country’s still fragile democratic institutions.

FIDH, Imparsial and KontraS see the situation in Papua as yet another sign of the authorities’ duplicity; in spite of a few much publicized steps taken to break the cycle of impunity in the far-flung province, human rights violations sadly remain the norm in Papua as a political issue is treated merely as a security problem.

More generally, despite a definite improvement of its human rights record since 1998, the report found that in recent years Indonesia faces a growing gap between public commitment to human rights and the de facto lack of implementation thereof. “The Indonesian authorities are currently in a state of schizophrenia – soaring human rights rhetorics on the one hand, but complete lack of action to ensure the protection of these rights, on the other hand,” said Anne-Christine Habbard, charge de mission for FIDH and author of the report. Indeed, the report found that Indonesia continues to face a number of serious human rights challenges, including impunity within the state security forces, restrictive legislations inconsistent with its international human rights obligations, a judiciary in need of strengthening, and a passivity which amounts to culpable complicity in the face of violence committed by non-state actors.

“Indonesia must set the tone for justice and the rule of law by combating impunity for past and present abuses, addressing religious discrimination and undertaking the difficult but necessary reforms to improve its democratic institutions—these crucial steps will help usher Indonesia into a global community of nations respectful of fundamental human rights and freedoms, ” said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

“The government has failed to protect human rights, as is evidenced by the growing number of cases of violence, such as torture in Papua and religion-based violence,” said Al Araf, Program Director at Imparsial. “The authorities must show they are serious in their human rights commitment which entails breaking the cycle of impunity for present as well as past human rights violations.”

Haris Azhar, Executive Coordinator of KontraS, said it has been 12 years since Indonesia had gone through what is transpiring in Egypt at the moment. “Ideally, we should have had some important democratic elements by now,” Mr. Azhar said. “Unfortunately, violence is still perpetrated by state agents and the police, or during military operations such as those in Papua or during detentions. The threat to human rights defenders also looms large since it has never been addressed seriously by the state," he added.

In light of the findings of this report, FIDH, Imparsial and KontraS make a set of recommendations to the authorities of Indonesia, including:
 Promptly conduct effective, transparent, independent and impartial investigation into all the recent incidents of attacks against minorities, and ensure prompt prosecution of culprits;
 Promptly initiate a political dialogue with all interested parties on the issue of Papua;
 Ensure meaningful implementation of measures to protect human rights defenders, anti corruption groups and journalists in their work; and
 Take all necessary steps, legal, administrative and other, to prevent violent groups from harassing, intimidating and attacking vulnerable groups.

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