KontraS Believes SBY Not Deserving of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation World Statesman Award because of Ongoing, State-Supported, Religious Intolerance in Indonesia
The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)—a human rights organization in Indonesia —is disappointed with the recent conferment of the World Statesman Award to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation. We believe that SBY, as the President of the Republic of Indonesia, is not eligible to accept this award at this time because of his failure to protect religious minorities from repeated violent acts of intolerance.
The Prevalence of Religious Intolerance in Indonesia
According to the Wahid Institute, a national wide NGO in Indonesia, there were 278 reported acts of religious intolerance in Indonesia in 2012, up from 267 in 2011. It is no wonder that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has placed Indonesia on a watchlist of countries with appalling religious freedoms for thirteen years in a row.
Human rights abuses committed in the name of religion are widespread, frequent, and persistent in Indonesia. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Destruction, defacement, and burning of places of worship;
- Verbal calls for sexual assault and rape of members of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) Filadelfia in Bekasi, West Java;
- Shutting down and/or prohibition of the construction of Ahmadiyah houses of worship;
- A coercive system of regulations for places of worship, including complicated regulations for the building and authorization for places of worship;
- Government refusal to issue identity documents to Indonesia citizens from the Ahmadiyah community;
- Displacement of the Ahmadiyah communities in Lombok and Syiah community in Sampang, resulting in their current status as refugees; and
- Denying Ahmadiyah followers access to Hajj, the holy Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
In January and February of 2013 alone there were 18 documented violent acts toward religious minorities. According to our data, these acts included the dissolution and banning of places of worship, intimidation of and discrimination against religious minorities, and vandalism. In January 2013 there were eight such instances of religious intolerance: four in West Java, two in East Java, one in West Nusa Tenggara and one in Central Kalimantan. In the following month, February 2013, there were ten such instances: four again in Wes Java, to in Sulawesi, and one each in Jambi, Riau, Bantan and Jakarta. Indeed, these statistics are in line with similar trends in previous years.
Another troubling aspect of religious intolerance is the criminalization of religious minority leaders. Indeed, leaders of minority religious communities are often the targets of violence by intolerant groups. On Christmas Eve, 2012, for example, a group ambushed the HKBP Filadelfia Church during their Christmas worship. The group sealed the church, prohibited worship, and engaged in mass intimidation and violence. Rather than going after the attackers, the police interrogated Pastor Palti, the leader of the church, for allegedly abusing one of the members of the other group. The police’s failure to protect the HKBP community and subsequent investigation of the victims is shameful and demonstrates the continued politicization of the law in Indonesia. This model also applied to Tajul Muluk, a Syiah Community Leader in Sampang, East Java, who was recently criminalized and punished for more than a year.
The Indonesian National Police, the (local) bureaucracies and the members of Indonesian Military often act as the perpetrators of violent acts seated in religious intolerance. These acts of violence have resulted in pain and severe suffering for some groups and individuals, leading to psychological and material losses. In a recent case, on April 13, 2013, police and local government officials closed down three mosques, two Islamic schools and one Ahmadiyah place of worship in Cianjur District, West Java.
SBY Has Failed to Curtail Acts of Religious Intolerance during his Presidency
SBY has demonstrated no real action aimed at halting cases of religious intolerance. Indonesia is a pluralistic and diverse nation. This reality should compel the President to take appropriate measures to immediately build bridges of religious tolerance. Yet instead, the Government has failed to overcome the divides caused by persistent intolerance. His failures stand as the antithesis to the image of Indonesian as the world’s largest Muslim country said to be respectful and tolerant of our nation’s inherent diversity.
Violent acts of religious intolerance are incompatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 2, which obligates state parties (including Indonesia) to:
“….respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”
SBY has failed to ensure Indonesia’s compliance with the ICCPR through his unwillingness to protect religious minorities.
Indeed, SBY has failed to repeal regulations that deliberately discriminate against religious minorities. Such regulations include:
- Joint Decree (Surat Keputusan Bersama/ SKB) of Minister of Religious Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs, law No. 9 of 2006 and No. 8 of 2006, which regulates the establishment of places of worship. The joint decree is discriminatory towards religious minority groups because it constructs barrier to worship for religious minorities.
- Joint decree regarding the existence of the Ahmadiyah Community in 2008, which is used by local governments to ban all religious activities of the Ahmadiyah. Because of this joint decree, approximately 30 Ahmadiyah mosques have been forced to close by local governments in Indonesia
Both of the joint decrees are open to interpretation and have led to conflict between majority and minority religious groups. The joint decrees above, followed by, atleast, the 15 local regulations in some districts of Indonesia (West Lombok, Kuningan, Cianjur, Garut, Bogor, Sukabumi, South Sumatra, Pekanbaru, South Sulawesi, Pandeglang, Samarinda, East & West Java, Kampar), which led into violence acts of intolerance towards religious minorities groups. Those local regulations which refrain to freedom of religions are unconstitutional and do not have strong legal basis. The religious matters shall regulate under the authority of the central government, and SBY as the President has failed to rectified the legal problematic.
Further more, these decrees are contradicted by the ICCPR, Article 18, related to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which states (in relevant part):
“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”
These regulations, contrary to religious tolerance, are often used by local governments as authorizing acts of intolerance against certain religious groups. This is the classic model in Indonesia. Local governments create policies of religious intolerance and the State then fails to come in and protect minorities from these policies. In the end, SBY cannot or will not guarantee the security of his religious minority citizens.
As the leader of Indonesia, pursuant to Article 4 of the 1945 Constitution, SBY holds the supreme authority in our government :
“The President of the Republic of Indonesia shall hold the power of government in accordance with the Constitution”
Therefore, in situations of violence against religious minority groups in Indonesia, his supreme authority should be used to respect, protect, uphold, and promote human rights as set forth in the law, regulations, and international legal obligations according to Law no. 39 of 1999 on Human Rights. In example, on article no. 71 regarding to government duties and obligations :
“The government shall respect, protect, uphold and promote human rights as laid down in this Act, other legislation, and international law concerning human rights ratified by the Republic of Indonesia”.
Particularly, the rights of minorities are violated by the state related to religious freedom, including: the right to safety (Individual security could not given by the government regarding to many cases of violence by intolerant groups), the right to recognition as a citizen (State apparratus refuse to issue identity documents to Indonesia citizens from the Ahmadiyah community), rights as refugee (The local government does not give the aid to Ahmadiyah Community at the place of refuge), the right to protection of property, the right to a fair trial, and the right to recovery.
In regards to his authority above, SBY has failed to take appropriate measures in response to violent acts in the name of religion, including to; first, he failed to repeal discriminatory laws and regulations that are detrimental to freedom of religious minority groups to worship; second he could not guarantee non-derogable rights and individual security for each citizen including religious minorities to not be subjected to violence by intolerant groups; third, he failed to build bridges between minorities and intolerant groups through open dialogue or other necessary measures; and last but not least, he failed to comply with ratified International Covenants, including ensuring that each citizen has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion by his choice.
Thus, the conferment of the World Statesman Award to President Yudhoyono is not in line with the situation on the ground throughout the Indonesian archipelago. We fully support the work of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an organization dedicated to the promotion of tolerance and human rights. The Foundation even states on its website (May, 2013) that “a crime committed in the name of religion is the greatest crime against religion”. It is indeed because of this declaration that we are so confused and disappointed that such an award will be given to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a president who has failed to demonstrate the political will to put a stop to these repeated instances of violence towards religious minorities. While we would like to see Indonesia receive such a prestigious award in the future, we believe that the current situation does not warrant such an honor.
Therefore, we, as an human rights NGO, respectfully recommend to ACF the following:
1) Decline to give the award to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at this time, taking into account the current situation of repeated instances of religious intolerance in Indonesia; and
2) Stand along and share your symphaty to victims or survivor of above mentioned situations to promote the cause of religious freedom and tolerance in Indonesia, which are still deep and concerning problems here, even in the 21st century.
Thank you for your attention,
Jakarta, May 2, 2013
Executive Committee of KontraS,