Verdicts on Ahmadiyya lynchings highlight weak and deteriorating protection of religious minorities

Press release
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Paris-Jakarta, 29 July 2011. The lenient verdicts handed down against 12 persons accused of killing three followers of a minority Muslim community fail to reflect the brutality and gravity of the attack and demonstrate the authorities’ inability to protect freedom of religion and end impunity for faith-based violence in Indonesia, said the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) today.

On 28 July, the district court in Serang in West Java convicted and sentenced 12 persons to three to six months in prison for their participation in the killing of three members of the Ahmadiyya community. The killing took place on 6 February 2011 when about 1,500 people, many of them belonging to militant religious groups, converged on and attacked the house of an Ahmadi leader in Cikeusik village, Banten province in Java. The public lynching of the three Ahmadiyya members was caught on tape.

Local rights groups who monitored the trial observed that the prosecutors’ efforts were weak and that prosecution witnesses included defendants and their testimonies benefited the latter. Despite the fact that the Indonesian criminal law provides for up to 12 years in prison for assault resulting in fatalities, the prosecutors not only recommended sentences of up to only seven months, but also sought to reduce the sentences by arguing that the Ahmadiyya also bear responsibility for provoking the attack and for circulating video footage of the lynchings. Others who were present during the incident, some of whom were also attacked, were not even interviewed or invited to testify as witnesses.

It is difficult to imagine the authorities are serious about constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion when the scale of justice is tipped in favour of the perpetrators rather than the victims. We now fear to see Indonesia turn its laws into discriminatory laws similar to those targeting the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan ,” said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.

FIDH, KontraS and Imparsial have previously called on the Indonesian government to take concrete measures to protect religious minorities from escalating intimidation and violence, rigorously investigate and prosecute perpetrators, and rescind the 2008 joint-ministerial decree banning the Ahmadiyya from promoting their religion. [1] On 7 July 2011, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Indonesia, expressing its “grave concerns at the incidents of violence against religious minorities” and calling on the authorities to guarantee that “perpetrators of religious violence and hatred are brought to justice.”

Failing to deliver genuine justice for the victims of religious violence not only is a violation of the Constitution and international law, but also serves to abet more of such violence by militant and radical groups ,” added Ms Belhassen.

A key test of the strength of a democracy is the extent to which it protects its minorities, and the Indonesian government, despite being a member of the UN Human Rights Council, is failing miserably in this test even as it attempts to portray itself as a success story of democratization ,” said Haris Azhar, Executive Director of KontraS.

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