Rule by Violence in Indonesia
Asian Human Rights Commission
Following a series of violent incidents against religious minorities,
including the Ahmadiyyah community, two regional administrations in
Indonesia issued local decrees banning the Ahmadiyyah followers. On Feb.
6 in Cikeusik Banten, for example, three Ahmadiyyah 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. Acts of
violence and protests against Ahmadiyyah followers also took place in
other provinces. The bombing of a Jakarta-based office of a
non-governmental organization (NGO) advocating religious freedom
completes the picture of Indonesian authorities who are not taking the
side of the law and who appear unable to withstand the pressure from
On March 15, 2011, 27 members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter to
Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, calling for the 2008
decree against the Ahmadiyyah to be revoked as well as the regional
decrees which banned the Ahmadiyyah followers from exercising their
religion. The letter is available
Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR) protects the rights 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 Ahmadiyyah religious sect in any manner it likes, the Jakarta Post
reported. While the Indonesian government acceded to the
ICCPR in 2006,
it now openly ignores its earlier commitments to human rights.
On March 15, 2011, a letter was sent to the co-founder of Jaringan Islam
Liberal (JIL, or Liberal Islamic
Network), Ulil Abshar Abdalla, in East Jakarta. The radio stations
housed in the same building witnessed the blast as well. The following
unusual events in the building show the inability of police to deal with
By 10:00 a.m. on March 15, a dark skinned
170-centimeter-tall man wearing a parachute jacket and hat delivered a
package wrapped in brown paper to the reception desk of the building
used by Jaringan Islam Liberal and the pro-democratic radio station
KBR68H and other groups.
At 11:30 a.m., four or five people arrived in a car. Two of them came
into the building and identified themselves as members of a travel
agency and talked to KBR68H Radio about running promotions for
pilgrimages to Mecca on the radio station. After their unusual visit
concluded, the men went to visit JIL in the same building with the same
request, falsely alleging to have been recommended by KBR68H to talk to
JIL. This ploy appeared as an attempt to gain trust.
At 2:30 p.m., three people who identified themselves as coming from the
national police headquarters arrived and alleged to want to talk about
the recent situation of religious violence and events against the
Ahmadiyyah followers. By this time, the staff of JIL had become
suspicious about the package they received since it contained a book
entitled They Deserved to Be Killed: Because of Their Sins to Islam
and Muslims and appeared to be glued together.
Since the suspicion of a bomb in the book arose, it was an unusual
coincidence that three members of the police were already in the
building when the JIL was able to give the book to them. The local
police were also called, and a group of about 10 officers arrived
between 3:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. It was soon confirmed that wires in the
object made it likely to be a bomb. The police then decided to try
traditional methods to neutralize it by pouring water in it after
bringing the bomb outside in the back of the building. Following this
procedure, the mobile phone battery that had supplied the bomb system
with electricity was removed by the police, and this action triggered
the bomb. The resulting explosion injured one of the policemen, none of
whom were bomb disposal specialists.
A second letter bomb with the same book title was sent to Comr. Gen.
Gories Mere, a former key officer of the national police’s elite
counterterrorism unit, Densus 88.
Previously, in 2005, KBR68H Radio had become the
target of an attack from the Front Pembela Islam (FPI, or Islamic
Defenders Front) 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 Aliansi Nasional Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (ANBTI,
or the National Alliance for Unity in Diversity). 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 Ahmadiyyah 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 Ahmadiyyah members to discard their beliefs.
With this activity, the military has gone far beyond its mandate and has
thus violated laws.
FPI is believed to be behind recent attacks against the Ahmadiyyah
community. Habib Rizieq Shihab, head of FPI, explained that FPI would
only settle for peace if the president would ban the Ahmadiyyah in
Indonesia. He threatened that violence against Ahmadiyyah followers
would continue unless the Islamic sect is 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
twisted so that the responsibility for the violence is not that of the
instigators of the violence but rather belongs to the victims who are
accused of causing instability.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges the president, the
Indonesian government and the national police to protect the country’s
constitutional values, human rights and applicable international laws by
fully investigating all threats against any religious group in Indonesia
and to give full support, including protection measures, to threatened
communities. Allegations against members of the police and military of
supporting religious extremists or their views must be investigated. Any
officer supporting such views should face disciplinary and criminal
measures, including suspension and criminal charges.
* The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is a regional
non-governmental organization monitoring and lobbying human rights
issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984. More
information is available on AHRC’s web site at <http://www.ahrchk.net/index.php>.