Activists Demand Human Rights Review

Activists Demand Human Rights Review

The Jakarta Post

Andi Hajramurni and Yuli Tri Suwarni

Rights activists across the country celebrated International Human Rights Day on Wednesday by staging rallies and other events expressing their views and voicing their demands about the current state of human rights in Indonesia.

In Bandung the head of the religious activities monitoring team, Ahmad Baso, said the number of incidents of violence against religious groups filed at the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in 2008 had declined. It recorded 72 such cases, only around 2 percent, compared to 4,000 incidents of human-rights infractions due to other causes.

The five dominant infractions the public reported include abuse of civil rights, political rights, land disputes, police brutality and government-sanctioned violence.

Reports on religious violence, frequent from January to April this year, Baso said, were dominated by cases involving the Ahmadiyah faith, closure of unlicensed churches and the eviction of the Dayak Losarang community from Indramayu, West Java.

Despite the overall decline in reported belief-related incidents, Baso pivoted the question, saying there was an urgent need to review police and public order officers' practices in cases of religious violence, since they still overlooked their role in protecting victims.

Baso said Komnas HAM should work together with the Religious Affairs and Home ministries, the Attorney General's Office and the police to curb violence against religious groups.

Meanwhile in Makassar, students and activists from groups affiliated with the Front for the People's Struggle for Human Rights commemorated the day by holding a rally at the Mandala Monument for the Liberation of West Irian.

They said the state and the government had failed to protect people's rights.

"The state has not protected the basic rights of citizens but instead has carried out various violent actions against its own citizens," protester Mukhtar said.

They called for the government to immediately ratify the convention on international crimes, thoroughly investigate human-rights violators and stop criminalization of citizens, students and workers exercising sincere efforts to uphold democracy.

They also demanded the government revise the laws on ways to voice opinions publicly, investment and management of water resources, coastal areas and small islands.

They rejected any form of discrimination, exploitation and violence against women, children and minorities, and called for a ban on the use of firearms by police while handling demonstrations.

They also firmly opposed the planned ordinance on the implantation of microchips in people living with HIV/AIDS in Papua, citing the plan as a clear violation of human rights, because the infected would be classified as second-class citizens.

In Sentani city in Papua's Jayapura regency, International Human Rights Day was commemorated by the civic group International Parliament for West Papua (IPWP) which held a photography exhibition on human-rights abuses in Papua alongside the screening of a documentary at the Theys Hiyo Eluay memorial.

"The photo exhibition presents repressive practices by security personnel in Papua in the past until now," IPWP home secretary-general Victor Yeimo said.

The exhibit includes a photo taken during the arrest of IPWP head Buchtar Tabuni.

"The current model of oppression is a bit different. In the past whenever there was trouble, Papuans would immediately be killed, but now the practice is legal repression. People have been arrested and brought up on charges just for holding differing opinions. Buchtar Tabuni, for example, was arrested for expressing his opinion in public," Yeimo said.

In Jayapura, Papua, students from the Anti-Violence Student Alliance marked International Human Rights Day by addressing the crowd in front of the Abepura post office.

They arrived carrying posters and two coffins and spoke to the implementation of protective legislation in Papua.

"Although Indonesia has adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Law 12/2005, its implementation is still weak, especially in Papua, where the threat from militarism still directly impinges on human rights in this region," rally coordinator Zakarias Horota said.

Angela Flassy contributed to this story from Jayapura