Countries attending the United Nations’ four-yearly human rights review in Geneva have criticized Indonesia for a rise in intolerance and attacks against religious minorities, as well as impunity for security forces accused of rights violations.
In its advance question on Wednesday to the Indonesian government at the Universal Periodic Review, the UK delegation noted “an increase in hostility and attacks against religious minority communities.”
It also asked about Indonesia’s plans for ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention against Torture. Indonesia signed both conventions in 1998 but has not yet ratified the ICC statute.
Despite ratifying the anti-torture convention, Indonesia has not enacted implementing laws and regulations on it. There has also been mounting pressure for Indonesia to adopt the convention’s optional protocol, which activists argue prescribes more effective ways to prevent torture.
The United Kingdom is one of five countries that lodged their advance questions before Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa presented the country’s report on its human rights achievement before the UPR Working Group.
Marty said Indonesia had established a grand strategy for the betterment of its human rights records.
“Since the last time we presented a report to this forum in 2008 … we have made considerable and important progress in the field of human rights,” he said.
“We are only too aware that much is expected of us. Not only by the international community, which has demonstrated strong support for Indonesia’s democratic transformation but, above all, also by our own people.”
The minister said Indonesia had ratified several international conventions, including on protecting migrant workers and against trafficking, as well as established channels for Indonesians to report on cases of human rights abuse.
“Like other democracies … we are conscious that the promotion and protection of human rights in Indonesia is not without challenges. Not least of the reality that while democracies bring freedom, it can also provide openings for extremists to exploit the democratic space for their own gains,” Marty said.
He insisted Indonesia was upholding the spirit of tolerance and religious freedom, including protection for the Ahmadiyah sect, which has for years been discriminated against, threatened and attacked.
Rafendi Djamin, executive director of Jakarta-based watchdog the Human Rights Working Group, said that with so many countries raising concerns about religious violence in Indonesia, the government should pay more attention on ensuring religious freedom and tolerance.
The United States raised concerns over the torture and human rights abuses still employed by Indonesian military and police officials. It blamed a culture of impunity enjoyed by security forces where officials are often tried in military tribunals or ethics hearings instead of a civilian court. In most cases, those accused of torture and excessive force face only administrative sanctions and light jail terms.
Marty denied that, saying officials charged with violence “have been punished according to the law” and that several independent bodies had been established to monitor the security forces.