INDONESIA: Rule by violence
March 21, 2011
Bombing of NGO office following religious standoff while US Congress urges President to revoke decrees
Following a series of violent incidents against religious minorities, including the Ahmadiyah community, two regional administrations in Indonesia had issued local decrees banning the Ahmadiyah followers. On February 6, in Cikeusik Banten for example three Ahmadiyah followers were killed and several injured after an angry mob attacked them. The few police officers present at the incident did little to stop the violence. An internal investigation by the police only named a few lower ranking officers as suspects of negligence but did not address the structural police involvement in such incidents of fundamentalist violence. Violence and protests against Ahmadiyah followers also took place in other provinces. The bombing of a Jakarta based NGO office advocating religious freedom completes the picture of Indonesian authorities that are not taking the side of the law and who appear unable to withstand the pressure from extremists.
On March 15, 2011, 27 members of the US Congress signed a letter to President Yudhoyono calling for the 2008 decree against Ahmadiya religions promulgation to be revoked as well as the regional decrees which banned the Ahmadiyah followers from exercising their religion. The letter is available here. Article 18 of the ICCPR protects the right of everyone to choose and exercise their religion and requires every government to protect this fundamental freedom as a human right. However, the government responded to the call to revoke the decrees by declaring that it reserves the right to treat the Ahmadiyah religious sect in any manner it likes, the Jakarta Post reported. While the Indonesian government acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2006 it now openly ignores its earlier commitments to human rights.
On Tuesday March 15, 2011 a letter mail was sent to the co-founder of the Liberal Islamic Network (JIL), Ulil Abshar Abdalla in East Jakarta. The radio stations housed in the same building witnessed the blast. The unusual events in building show the inability of police to deal with the situation:
In 2005 the KBR68H radio station had become a target of an attack from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) after the radio had promoted religious tolerance.
A day earlier on March 14, four laptops and one computer were stolen from the office of the National Alliance for Unity in Diversity (Aliansi Nasional Bhinneka Tunggal Ika ANBTI). The group supported and promoted the Indonesian constitutional value of a pluralistic society in Indonesia.
It is not only the police and local administrations that have supported activities against Ahmadiyah followers. According to the Human Rights Working Group the Indonesian military has also been involved in activities against the religious minority. Members of the military have occupied mosques and urged Ahmadiyah members to discard their beliefs. With this activity the military has gone far beyond its mandate and has thus violated laws.
The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) is believed to be behind recent attacks against the Ahmadiyah community. Habib Rizieq Shihab, head of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) explained that FPI would only settle for peace if the President would ban the Ahmadiyah in Indonesia. He threatened that violence against Ahmadyah followers would continue unless the Islamic sect would be legally banned.
The repeated and open threats of violence against religious minorities are a crime in the Indonesian Penal Code. The police often do not react appropriately to such incitements of violence and authorities instead allow such incidents, like the recent killings and bans, to take place. In some instances the argument to maintain public security and order is turned around so that the responsibility for the violence is not that of the instigators of the violence but rather at the victims who are accused of causing instability.
The AHRC urges the President, the Indonesian government and the National Police to protect the constitutional values, human rights and applicable international law by fully investigating all threats against any religious groups in Indonesia and to give full support including protection measures to threatened communities. Allegations against members of the police and military to support religious extremists or their views must be investigated. Any officer supporting such views should face disciplinary and criminal measures including suspension and criminal charges.