INDONESIA: Judgement by the Supreme Court upholding freedom of religion disregarded by police and Bekasi local authorities
May 25, 2012
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-087-2012
25 May 2012
INDONESIA: Judgement by the Supreme Court upholding freedom of religion disregarded by police and Bekasi local authorities
ISSUES: Freedom of religion, minorities, police negligence, threats and intimidation
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information concerning the ongoing threats and intimidation by villagers of Jejalen Jaya towards Reverend Palti Panjaitan and the congregation of Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) Filadelfia. The congregation has been prohibited to conduct service of worship for years on a piece of land that legally belongs to them despite the judgment of the Indonesian Supreme Court upholding the congregation's right over the land and to establish a church on it. The police and local authorities have not taken any measures to enforce the court’s judgment but, instead, have taken the side of the local residents and have urged the congregation to relocate its place of worship. The authorities have taken no action against those who have made the threats against the Reverend as well as the congregation despite the fact that the Penal Code criminalises such actions.
The latest update received by the AHRC reveals that on 17 May 2012 at around 8.30 in the morning, the congregation of HKBP Filadelfia attempted to come to the land they have lawfully bought to conduct a service commemorating the Ascension Day. Yet, as happened in the previous weeks, the residents of Jejalen Jaya village, the police and the officers of the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) blocked the street to the location. The local residents surrounded the congregation and prevented them from moving to anywhere. The police, Satpol PP as well as representatives of local governments were present and the congregation tried to negotiate with them. Following the negotiation, the residents delivered a hate speech which was amplified by a loud speaker. They also pushed the police and attempted to break the barricades. (PHOTO: The police, Satpol PP officers and the villagers of Jejalen Jaya village blocked the street on 6 May 2012, preventing the congregation to pray on a land it owns.)
It was reported that the villagers also threw stones, urines and faeces on the congregation. The police and the public order agency attempted to protect the congregation yet did not take any measures against the villagers carrying out the intimidation. The HKBP Filadelfia’s congregation finally gave up and only asked that they will be given a few minutes to pray together. They were about to start the prayer but the villagers thought the congregation would hold a service on the street. This triggered the anger of the villagers who quickly became more aggressive and tried to approach the congregation. Seeing the villagers become even angrier, the members of the congregation decided to disperse.
Intimidation and threats towards the HKBP Filadelfia’s congregation takes place every time it tries to conduct a service of worship in the location which it has lawfully bought. On 15 April 2012, for instance, a villager named Aziz openly said to the public that he would kill Rev. Palti Panjaitan, the leader of the church. This person, who is the son of an Islamic leader in that area, repeated his threats and even incited the local residents. "Next week, if they are coming here again, we are going to finish all of them!" which was responded to positively by the mob. "If they are coming here again, I’m going to behead Palti myself! You will see, I’m going to behead Palti myself!" While he was doing this, the Chief Deputy of the Tambun Sub-District Police Station was present but made no attempt to arrest him for inciting the masses, although incitement to commit violence is a crime under Article 160 of the Indonesian Penal Code (KUHP).
Rev. Palti Panjaitan reported the threats to the Jakarta Metropolitan Police yet his complaint was simply ignored by the police. The video of what happened on 15 April 2012 is available in Bahasa Indonesia on http://vimeo.com/40669418.
According to Rev. Panjaitan, HKBP Filadelfia bought a piece of land in Villa Bekasi Indah Residence where they later built a two-floor building on. However, when they were conducting a service of worship in that building, the local residents came and expressed their disapproval of such building is used as a place of worship by HKBP Filadelfia. The congregation chose to take the local residents’ concern into account and decided to hold the services at the members of the congregation’s house on a rolling basis. Yet, again, in 2006, the local residents objected to the way the congregation conducted their Sunday service.
HKBP Filadelfia later bought another piece of land, still in that area, in 2007. It was clear from the beginning that a church would be built upon the land and this had been agreed by the owner as well as her family and was witnessed by several local residents and the Head of the Village. HKBP Filadelfia also complied with the requirement imposed under the 2006 Joint Regulation of the Minister of Religious Affair and the Home Minister which states that the consent of 60 persons who do not profess the same religion with the applicant is needed for a plan to build a place of worship to be approved by the government, in addition to the requirement that the total of the members of congregation should be 90 persons at the minimum. Despite of the application submitted by HKBP Filadelfia, the local authorities (Regent of Bekasi, Bekasi Office of the Ministry of Religious Affair, the Head of Tambun Utara Sub-District and the Religious Tolerance Forum) did not issue the permit.
On Christmas Day as well as 27 December 2012, HKBP Filadelfia conducted its service on the land which they have bought in compliance with law. Yet the service was welcomed by the local residents with a massive protest, which also took place on 3 January 2010. The congregation decided to hold the service in the Jejalen Jaya Village Auditorium but the local residents also attempted to disperse them. On the same day, the Regent of Bekasi issued a letter ordering HKBP Filadelfia to stop the construction of the church as well as to stop conducting service of worship in that area. Few days later, a meeting which was not attended by the representatives of the church decided that HKBP Filadelfia should not hold its service of worship at the Jejalen Jaya Village Auditorium. After this, there had been repeated attempts from HKBP Filadelfia to hold the service in the land they legally bought yet the service had always been disrupted by the local residents. This case was later brought to the Administrative Court, High Court as well as the Supreme Court and all of the courts ordered the local governments to issue a permit for HKBP Filadelfia to build a church on the land which the congregation had bought. (PHOTO: A board put by the villagers on the location own by the congregation. It reads: ‘Refusing the establishment of church. Disperse illegal service of worship. Take measures against those who intimidate the villagers. We request the officials of Jejalen Jaya village to disperse any service of worship in our village. As soon as possible. The villagers are sick of this.')
However, even after all courts decided so, the local residents kept disturbing HKBP Filadelfia’s services of worships by intimidating them, leaving faeces as well as animals’ dead bodies and putting some music loudly by the church. On 25 March 2012, the local residents occupied the land owned by HKBP Filadelfia, preventing the congregation to conduct its Sunday service.
An agreement was signed by the representatives of the church and the local residents on 30 March 2012 which one of the clauses reads that the congregation is only allowed to pray in that site on 1, 6 and 8 April 2012. Another point agreed by the parties at that time is that HKBP Filadelfia will be relocated to a location which will be decided later. It later turned out that the alternative location offered by the local government is the office of the Head of Tambun Sub-District which located approximately 15-20 kilometres away from the current location of the church.
The agreement was signed by the church representatives as they were under intimidation and pressure. Whereas there were only five of them who came to the Head of Tambun Utara Sub-District office to discuss about the agreement, it was reported that there were approximately 100 local residents who came there. The meeting was also attended by the Head of the Tambun Utara Sub-District, the Deputy Chief of Tambun Sub-District Police Station, the Legal Head of Bekasi Local Government and the representative of the Religious Tolerance Forum. Yet instead of attempted to control the mass or ensured the meeting was conducted without any pressure or intimidation, the government officials provoked the mob which made it even got angrier.
Under Indonesian private law, any agreement signed in the situation where one of the parties was under pressure or intimidation is null and void. Based on such reason, on 15 April 2012 the congregation insisted to come to the location where their church was supposed to be built on.
Please write to the authorities listed below asking them to ensure the safety of Rev. Palti Panjaitan and his congregation. The authorities should also put some pressure on the Bekasi Regent to comply with the Courts decisions which upheld that HKBP Filadelfia should be given the permit to build a church on the land they legally bought. Please recall the authorities to repeal any discriminatory laws and regulations, including the 2006 Joint Regulation of the Minister of Religious Affairs and the Home Minister. The police and other law enforcement institutions need also to be reminded that they have to take necessary measures against those who pose intimidation and threats against the congregation of HKBP Filadelfia.
The AHRC is also writing separately to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
INDONESIA: Supreme Court’s judgment upholding freedom of religion disregarded by police and Bekasi local authorities
Name of affected group: The congregation of HKBP Filadelfia
Names of alleged perpetrators: Villagers of Jejalen Jaya village; Regent of Bekasi; the Head and Deputy Chief of Tambun Sub-District Police Station; the Chief of Jakarta Metropolitan Police; Minister of Religious Affair; Home Minister
Date of incident: Ongoing
Place of incident: Tambun Utara, Bekasi Timur
I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the intimidation and threats addressed by villagers of Jejalen Jaya towards Reverend Palti Panjaitan and the congregation of HKBP Filadelfia. I was informed that the intimidation and threats against them have been ongoing for years and I am disturbed that the relevant state institutions have failed to provide adequate protection for the congregation or to take any measures against those who committed such intimidation and threats.
I am aware that the villagers of Jejalen Jaya refuse the presence of HKBP Filadelfia in their area. Yet, bearing in mind that the Supreme Court has upheld that HKBP Filadelfia has the right to conduct service of worships and to establish a church on the land which they have bought, the police and other law enforcement officials as well as the government of Bekasi should provide adequate protection for the congregation to conduct services as the Supreme Court had ordered. Furthermore, they have to inform and educate the villagers that they should respect the judgment of the court. Yet instead I was informed that those state institutions have always been blocking the street thus preventing the congregation to pray in the location they lawfully own. I am therefore concerned that the police, the government of Bekasi as well as other related institutions have failed to respect the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court.
I received the information that on 17 May 2012, the congregation was about to come to the location where they have the right to establish their church on. However, as happened in the previous weeks, the villagers, the police and the officers of Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) blocked the road and prevented them to do so. The villagers threw stones, urines and faeces on the congregation. Although the police attempted to protect the congregation, it did not take any measures against the villagers although what they did actually amounted to intimidation which is a crime under the Penal Code.
I have been informed that such intimidation and threats are not new for the congregation. Previously on 15 April 2012, for instance, one of the villagers openly said to the public that he would kill Reverend Palti Panjaitan if the congregation comes again in the following weeks. There were police around when it happened yet they did not take any measures against this guy. All of these things I am telling you were recorded and the video is available in Bahasa Indonesia on http://vimeo.com/40669418. Being aware that his safety is under threat, Rev. Palti Panjaitan submitted a complaint to Jakarta Metropolitan Police. His complaint, however, was simply ignored by the police although incitement to commit violence is a crime under Article 160 of the Indonesian Penal Code (KUHP).
I am aware that there has been a long ongoing conflict between HKBP Filadelfia and Jejalen Jaya villagers and I am terribly disturbed with the way of the local government deals with this particular matter. HKBP Filadelfia’s congregation has always been forced not to conduct services in the location which they lawfully own and it has several times moved its services location from one place to another. However, instead of ensuring the congregation of HKBP Filadelfia enjoy their right to manifest their religion, the Regent of Bekasi issued a decree ordering HKBP Filadelfia to stop the construction of the church on the land which the congregation has lawfully bought. The local government prohibited the congregation to conduct service of worships in Jejalen Jaya village yet it did not give any feasible alternative to the congregation. The only solution they offered was for HKBP Filadelfia to conduct its services at the Head of Tambun Sub-District office which located about 15-20 kilometres of the current location of the church.
I would like to emphasise that this case had been brought to the Bandung Administrative Court which has mandated the Regent of Bekasi to revoke his decree prohibiting HKBP Filadelfia’s congregation to build a church on its own land. Moreover, the Administrative Court’s judgment has been reaffirmed both by the High and Supreme Court at the appeals level. The Bekasi local government, especially the Regent, as well as other related parties thus are obliged by law to comply with the judgments of those courts.
I would not be tired to remind you that Indonesia is obliged to ensure the right to freedom of religion of every single individual within its territory and jurisdiction. This is not only because Indonesia is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) but also because the Indonesian 1945 Constitution itself guarantees the right to freedom of religion. According to Article 28E (1) of the Constitution, ‘every person shall be free to choose and to practice the religion of his/her choice’. Moreover, Article 28I (1) of the Constitution emphasises that the right to freedom of religion is a right which cannot be limited under any circumstances along with the right to life, the right not to be tortured and some other basic rights.
In this occasion, I would also like to bring your attention to the human rights violations caused by the 2006 Joint Regulation of the Minister of Religious Affair and the Home Minister. This regulation states that the consent of 60 persons who do not profess the same religion with the applicant is needed for a plan to build a place of worship to be approved by the government in addition to the requirement that the total of the members of congregation should reach a minimum of 90 persons. I am of the view that this Joint Regulation is discriminatory as it resulted in the difficulty for people from religious minority groups to effectively manifest their religion and belief.
Based on all of the information I have explained above, I urge you to take all the necessary measures to ensure the safety of Rev. Palti Panjaitan as well as the whole members of HKBP Filadelfia’s congregation. Those who intimidated and threatened the congregation should be arrested and tried in accordance with law. The congregation of HKBP Filadelfia also have to be able to enjoy their right to manifest their religion and what they believe and this can be done only if the local government complies with the judgments of the courts. The 2006 Joint Regulation of the Minister of Religious Affair and the Home Minister which imposes excessive burden for religious minority groups to build their own places of worship should also be repealed immediately.
I look forward to your effective and swift response on these matters.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudoyono
President of the Republic of Indonesia
Jl. Veteran No. 16
Tel: +62 21 386 3777, 350 3088
Fax: +62 21 344 2223
2. Ms. Harkristuti Harkrisnowo
General Director of Human Rights
Ministry of Law and Human Rights
Jl. HR Rasuna Said Kav. 6-7
Kuningan, Jakarta 12940
Tel: +62 21 525 3006, 525 3889, 526 4280
Fax: +62 21 525 3095
3. Mr. Suryadharma Ali
Religious Affair Minister
Jl. Lapangan Banteng Barat No. 3-4
Tel: +62 21 3811679
Fax: +62 21 3811436
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
4. Mr. Gamawan Fauzi
Jl. Merdeka Utara No. 7, Jakarta 10110
Tel: +62 21 3450058, 3842222
Fax: +62 21 3831193
5. Gen. Timur Pradopo
Chief of the Indonesian National Police
Markas Besar Kepolisian Indonesia
Jl. Trunojoyo No. 3
Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta Selatan 12110
Tel: +62 21 3848537, 7260306, 7218010
Fax: +62 21 7220669
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Ins. Gen. Untung S. Rajab
Chief of the Jakarta Metropolitan Police
Jalan Sudirman Kavling 55
Tel: +62 21 5234262
Fax: +62 21 5234051
7. Mr. Andri Ananta
Chief of Tambun Sub-District Police
Jl. Sultan Hassanudin No. 86
Tel: +62 21 880 2378
8. Dr. Hj. Neneng Hasanah Yasin
Regent of Bekasi
Komp. Perkantoran Pemerintah Kab. Bekasi
Desa Sukamahi Kec. Cikarang Pusat
Tel: +62 21 8997 0128
Fax: +62 21 8997 0064
9. Mr. Ifdhal Kasim
KOMNAS HAM (National Human Rights Commission)
Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B Menteng
Jakarta Pusat 10310
Tel:+62 21 3925 230
Fax: +62 21 3151042/3925227
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (email@example.com)