Indonesia elections: Time to recommit to human rights
Indonesia’s next government must put human rights at the center of its policies after the serious abuses that have marred the country in recent years, Amnesty International said ahead of polling day on 17 April.
With nearly 200 million registered voters expected to cast their ballots in Indonesia’s general elections, Amnesty International have published a Human Rights Agenda targeting 7,968 parliamentary candidates and the two presidential candidates.
“Our agenda puts forward a concrete action plan that the next government and parliament must deliver to improve the human rights situation in Indonesia, after the deteriorating environment experienced by so many people in the past four and half years – especially minorities and other marginalized groups,” said Usman Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director. “The next government has an opportunity to turn the tide and prevent Indonesia from squandering the vital human rights progress made since 1998.”
Indonesia has experienced a severe deterioration in the human rights environment in recent years. These include a rise in targeted attacks against religious minorities, including arson of places of worship and homes by mobs, in some cases resulting in the forced eviction of communities.
Since early 2016, there have been more orchestrated and persistent acts of intimidation, discrimination and marginalization against LGBTI people – including public shamings by security forces and threatening comments levelled at LGBTI individuals made by public officials.
The agenda outlines nine top human rights issues for all candidates to prioritize, including protecting the rights to freedom of expression, thought, conscience, religion and belief; accountability for past human rights violations and abuses by security forces; women and girls’ rights; the human rights situation in Papua; accountability for human rights abuses by companies in the palm oil sector; abolishing the death penalty; and protecting LGBTI individuals’ rights.
These priority areas are not an exhaustive list of Amnesty International's concerns in Indonesia. They draw upon Amnesty International’s ongoing research in the country and daily contact with local and international non-governmental organizations, victims of human rights abuses and their families, lawyers, government officials, journalists and others.
“Crucially, the new government and parliament must do more to uphold and protect the rights to freedom of expression, to strengthen the civic space where human rights defenders carry out their life-saving work,” said Usman Hamid. “To do so, authorities must urgently review laws frequently used to silence freedom of expression, including defamation articles in the Criminal Code, as well as other legal provisions used to quash legitimate and peaceful political expressions”
In October 2018, for example, environmental activist Heri Budiawan was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment by the Supreme Court for violating Article 107a of the Indonesian Criminal Code on “crimes against state security” for displaying during a protest the hammer and sickle symbol of communism, which he denies.
In recent years, Amnesty International has documented several cases of intimidation, attacks and unjust prosecution against human rights defenders for their legitimate work. These include the acid attack against Novel Baswedan, a prominent investigator for the independent state anti-corruption commission (Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK). After two years of investigation, the police have not identified any suspected perpetrators.
“Human rights have faced countless attacks and setbacks in the past four and a half years, and so many Indonesians have needlessly suffered. Now is the time to bring the decline to a halt and embark on a new beginning for human rights,” Usman Hamid said.
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