Despite undergoing a dramatic democratic transformation over the last decade, a new report released on Tuesday by the United States Department of State maintains that Indonesia is still struggling with certain human rights matters.
In its 2012 Human Rights Report on Indonesia, the state department highlighted several worrying issues, including the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, abuses by security forces, people trafficking and child labor, that are still taking place in the country.
“The suppression or abridgement of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities was a problem. The government applied treason and blasphemy laws to limit freedom of expression by peaceful independence advocates in the provinces of Papua, West Papua and Maluku and by religious minority groups,” the executive resume of the report said.
The report said that minority religious groups such as Ahmadis, Shiites, other non-Sunni Muslims and Christians were occasionally victims of societal discrimination and violence.
It also pointed out that under the Blasphemy Law, “spreading religious hatred, heresy, and blasphemy” is punishable by up to five years in prison. On July 12, the Sampang District Court sentenced Shiite cleric Tajul Muluk to two years in prison for blasphemy following the issuance of a fatwa (Islamic edict) by a local Islamic clerical council that called his teaching deviant.
On September 21, the court extended the sentence to four years.
Official corruption, including within the judiciary, was also a major problem for Indonesia, according to the report.
“On some occasions, the government punished officials who committed abuses, but judicial sentencing often was not commensurate with the severity of offenses, as was true in other types of crimes,” the report said.
Additionally, the report stated that there were accounts of the government and its agents committing arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year. It cited the shooting of Mako Tabuni, a leader of the National Committee for West Papua, under unclear circumstances on June 14.
On July 27, members of the National Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) dispersed a demonstration over land problems by villagers in Limbang Jaya village, Ogan Ilir district in South Sumatra, leaving a 12-year-old boy dead of a gunshot wound. Investigators interviewed 120 Brimob members who took part in the clash, but none were arrested or charged.
Furthermore, a number of violent incidents, including killings by unknown parties in Papua and West Papua, were recorded.
Unknown attackers, whom government officials and human rights contacts suspected to be Papuan separatists, killed a small number of non-Papuan migrants.
Local NGOs reported that torture continues to be commonplace in police detention facilities throughout the country. The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) reported that between July 2011 and June 2012, it received 86 reports of torture involving a total of 243 victims. Eleven of the cases occurred in Papua.
The report also said that conditions in Indonesia’s 428 prisons and detention centers were sometimes harsh or life threatening, and that overcrowding was widespread.