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INDONESIA: Religious minorities' relocation is not a solution

September 11, 2012
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The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is disappointed with the decision taken by the Indonesian Interior Minister regarding the relocation of the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) from a land that they are legitimately entitled to, on to a place which will be provided by the government. To a national media, the spokesperson of the ministry, Reydonnyzar Moenek, called such decision 'a solution which benefits everyone'. He also added what has happened in the case of GKI Yasmin is not an issue of violation to freedom of violation 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 the permission to build a church in Taman Yasmin, Bogor, in 2006. However, a letter suspending the permit was issued two years later. GKI Yasmin took the case to the courts and, after a long legal battle the Supreme Court delivered its judgement in their favour. The Bogor local government was ordered by the Court to issue a permit for the establishment of a church which, to date, it has failed to comply with.

The congregation of GKI Yasmin has been repeatedly subjected to intimidation by fundamentalist and non-tolerance 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 them. Instead, the police had assisted the groups in preventing the congregation to conduct religious activities on the land they legitimately owned by blocking the congregation's access to it.

Considering the above, the AHRC strongly disagrees with the view expressed by the Interior Ministry and its spokesperson. The relocation of GKI Yasmin is not anywhere near a solution, let alone one that benefits everyone. Bogor local government has taken the position of being non-tolerance which is not beneficial to the persecuted religious minority, that is, the Christians belonging to GKI Yasmin. Instead of a solution, the AHRC believes such decision is a violation to the right of freedom of religion which was claimed by the Indonesian government in the last UPR session as its 'highest priority'.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under the Indonesian 1945 Constitution as well as in 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 UN Human Rights Committee explicitly recognises the building of places of worship as a part of the right to manifest religion or belief which falls under the scope of protection of Article 18 of the ICCPR. The statement of the Interior Ministry's spokesperson saying that GKI Yasmin case is simply a 'usual problem' is therefore regrettable as it shows his poor understanding on human rights and freedom of religion. Equally important, such statement is insensitive and disrespectful towards the victims and has downgraded the issue at stake.

The AHRC would also like to underline that intimidation and attacks against individuals or groups of individuals for their religious view is a form of discrimination which the Indonesian government should tackle seriously should it really be committed to human rights as it has always been claiming.

The 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 relocation comes from the Ministry which he has the authority to legitimately influence. The President should also take all the necessary measures to prevent the relocation of other religious minority groups in other parts of Indonesia such as the Shia followers in Sampang, East Java. He, instead, has to ensure that those responsible for any attacks, intimidation and discrimination against the religious minorities will be brought to justice and the victims will be given adequate redress.

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