Thursday, January 26, 2012

HRW: Sectarian violence has surged in RI

Throughout 2011, Indonesian authorities used excessive force against peaceful protesters in easternmost Papua and stood aside while mobs attacked religious minorities in Java and Sumatra, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2012.

The Indonesian government should release all detainees held for peacefully expressing views opposing the government, mainly Papuan and Moluccan activists, Human Rights Watch said. The government should also thoroughly investigate and prosecute violence against religious and ethnic minorities.

“Police violence in Papua and attacks on religious minorities got a lot worse in 2011,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement on Monday. “The common thread is the failure of the Indonesian government to protect the rights of all its citizens.”

In October, police used excessive force while arresting more than 300 Papuans involved in a three-day Papuan Congress in Jayapura, the provincial capital. At least three men died and more than 90 were injured. No police officers were disciplined but five Papuan leaders were charged with treason.

Further more, Human Rights Watch noted that incidents of violence against religious minorities became more deadly and frequent during 2011, as Islamist militants mobilized mobs to attack religious minorities. Short prison terms for a handful of offenders had no impact on the widespread impunity for those responsible for the worst offenses. The government did not revoke several decrees that discriminate against minority religions, fostering public intolerance.

Islamist mobs attacked members of the Ahmadiyah religious community and their mosques in 14 locations, including West Java, Banten and South Sulawesi. Even in the deadly attack against an Ahmadiyah community in February 2011, when three Ahmadis were killed, attackers were only sentenced to short prison terms of between three and six months for disturbing public order, incitement and assault. They were not convicted of manslaughter. Police did not conduct thorough investigations, and prosecutors did not call key witnesses, including a man who videotaped the attack.

Islamists also attacked three Christian churches in Temanggung, Central Java, in February after a district court convicted a controversial preacher of blasphemy. In January 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that a Presbyterian church known locally as GKI Yasmin should be reopened, overturning a Bogor administration ruling by the city government to revoke the church’s building permit. Mayor Diani Budiarto refused to comply, and government ministers have offered the church “relocation”.

“Incidents of sectarian violence are no longer isolated cases in Indonesia, but are taking place at an alarming rate,” Pearson said. “The Indonesian government needs to reverse course and start prosecuting violence against religious minorities and replace the discriminatory regulations that only encourage such attacks.”