Papua abuse, rising intolerance mar RI rights record
The struggle for justice for human rights abuse cases in Indonesia could be likened to a broken record falling on deaf ears, as activists have once again reminded the government about its duty to protect its citizens and provide justice for all.
As the country marked International Human Rights Day, which falls every Dec. 10, and preached democracy on the resort island of Bali, human rights advocates lamented the absence of state action in times of religious intolerance, and reiterated that the people of restive Papua continue to live under the threat of state violence.
Abuse cases in Papua have put Indonesia under the spotlight as tensions have escalated in the country’s easternmost region following fatal shootings during the third Papuan People’s Congress in Abepura, Jayapura, in October, an event that authorities claimed as “a declaration of a new country”.
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has found strong evidence of police “brutality” when they forcefully dispersed the event, leading to the deaths of three Papuans and injury to dozens more.
Following protests, the National Police handed out punishments to police officers involved in the violence, but only in the form of reprimands, which critics said were nothing but a “slap on the wrist”.
“The government has no adequate, clear and strong human rights policy. The President should have a strong political will to intervene with his institutions to bring justice to bear against all human rights abusers. But I don’t see this; only business as usual,” Komnas HAM chairman Ifdhal Kasim told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
The government’s failure to resolve human rights abuse cases in the past has preserved the culture of impunity, Ifdhal said.
Numerous incidents of violence by police officers against civilians, particularly during disputes between locals and mining or plantation firms, remain unresolved.
The year 2011, Ifdhal said, has been another “dark” year for Indonesia in terms of human rights with the government being considered to have been “absent” when minority groups were persecuted.
The discrimination and persecution of religious minorities, such as the followers of the Ahmadiyah religious sect, which were also frequent this year, has “helped derail justice in the country,” said Usman Hamid of the International Center for Transitional Justice.
“Delayed justice has become a common reality with the government being very slow to address human rights issues, especially when it comes to religious freedom and minorities,” he said.
The most noted episode in the series of “attacks” against Ahmadis in 2011 occurred in Cikeusik, Banten, in February, in which three Ahmadis were beaten and stoned to death.
In August, some of the perpetrators, including an Ahmadi, were handed down prison sentences ranging from three to five months. The guilty are now all free.
In Bogor, West Java, dozens of congregation members of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Taman Yasmin have performed their Sunday service on the street beside their church for months. The ever watchful eyes of dozens of police officers and constant shouts of local vigilante groups have intimidated their worship.
The Yasmin church has been sealed off by the Bogor city administration since 2008, despite a Supreme Court ruling last year that upheld the legality of the church.
“The large number of intolerance-related cases cannot be separated from the failure of the government’s poor political policies,” Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) coordinator Haris Azhar said.