September 2012

 

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Religious Minorities’ Relocation in Indonesia Is Not a Solution

Asian Human Rights Commission


The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is disappointed with the decision of the Indonesian interior minister regarding the relocation of the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) from land to which they are legitimately entitled to a location which will be provided by the government. Speaking to the national media, the spokesperson of the ministry, Reydonnyzar Moenek, called this decision “a solution which benefits everyone.” He added that what has happened in the case of GKI Yasmin is not an issue of religious freedom but instead merely “a usual problem between the regent [of Bogor] with his people.”

Having met all the requirements provided by law, the congregation of GKI Yasmin acquired permission to build a church in Taman Yasmin in Bogor in 2006. However, a letter suspending the permit was issued two years later. GKI Yasmin took the case to court, and, after a long legal battle, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the church’s favor. As a result, the local government of Bogor was ordered by the court to issue a permit for the establishment of a church—an order to which, to date, it has failed to comply.

Meanwhile, the congregation of GKI Yasmin has been repeatedly subjected to intimidation by fundamentalist and non-tolerant groups. The groups also delivered hate speeches against the congregation. However, despite the fact that incitement and hate speech is a crime in Indonesia, no legal proceedings have been taken against those making these speeches. Instead, the police assisted these groups in preventing the congregation from conducting religious activities on the land they legitimately owned by blocking the congregation’s access to it.

Considering the above, AHRC strongly disagrees with the view expressed by the Interior Ministry and its spokesperson. The relocation of GKI Yasmin is not a solution, let alone one that benefits everyone. The Bogor local government has taken a position of non-tolerance, a stance which is not beneficial to the persecuted religious minority, that is, the Christians belonging to GKI Yasmin. Instead of a solution, AHRC believes this decision is a violation to the right of freedom of religion that was claimed by the Indonesian government as its “highest priority” in the last universal periodic review (UPR) session at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under the Indonesian Constitution of 1945 as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Indonesia is a state party. General Comment No. 22 on freedom of religion set out by the U.N. Human Rights Committee explicitly recognizes the building of places of worship as a part of the right to manifest one’s religion or belief, which falls under the protective scope of Article 18 of the ICCPR. The statement of the Interior Ministry’s spokesperson describing the GKI Yasmin case as simply a “usual problem” is therefore regrettable as it shows his poor understanding about human rights and freedom of religion. Equally important, such a statement is insensitive and disrespectful towards the victims and has downgraded the issue at stake.

AHRC would also like to underline that intimidation and attacks against individuals, or groups of individuals, for their religious views are a form of discrimination that the Indonesian government should tackle seriously if it is truly committed to human rights as it consistently claims.

AHRC is therefore calling upon the president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to intervene in this matter. We wish to remind the president that he can no longer argue that his administration cannot interfere in the “business” of the Bogor local government, as he did previously, because the decision on the church’s relocation comes from the Interior Ministry, which he has the authority to legitimately influence. The president should also take all necessary measures to prevent the relocation of other religious minority groups in other parts of Indonesia as well, such as the Shia followers in Sampang in East Java. He instead has to ensure that those responsible for any attacks, intimidation and discrimination against religious minorities will be brought to justice and the victims will be given adequate redress.


* 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>.