INDONESIA: Attacks on religious minorities remain largely unchallenged by justice institutions

February 20, 2012

Language(s): English only

Nineteenth session, Agenda Item 3, interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

A written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organisation with general consultative status

INDONESIA: Attacks on religious minorities remain largely unchallenged by justice institutions

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) has noted with concern the ongoing violence against religious minorities in Indonesia. Many cases of such violence are characterized by a lack of protective action by the police and institutional discrimination against minority groups. The ALRC urges the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and the Independent Expert on minority issues to intervene with the government of Indonesia concerning the following issues, in order to put a halt to abuses and ensure the equal treatment of all religious groups in the country.

Law no. 01/pnps/1965 limits institutional recognition and thus protection of religious beliefs to only six main religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. Under decades of Suharto’s military rule, activities of religious groups were heavily suppressed and later, law no. 8/1985 on Mass Organisations was used to restrict the activities of all religious groups. In 1984 hundreds of Muslims were killed in the Tanjung Priok case, with hundreds more being killed in the 1989 Talangsari incident. No perpetrators were held accountable in either case.

After the fall of Suharto, the freedom now enjoyed by dominant religious groups has not been balanced with the protection of religious minorities. Islamist leaders were able to gain support to spread fundamentalist views violating Indonesia’s constitutional values and international human rights norms, due to youth unemployment, poverty and the lack of effective justice mechanisms in public institutions. Largely unchallenged inter-religious conflicts and an increase in the number of attacks on minorities have been witnessed since then.

For instance, a fatwa was issued against Ahmadiyah followers by Indonesian Muslim scholars (Majelis Ulama Indonesia – MUI) in 1980, and republished in 2005. The fatwa declared the Ahmadiyah community an errant sect and has since encouraged violent attacks, persecution and discrimination against its members. Pressure on the government resulted in a Joint Ministerial Decree in 20081 prohibiting the Ahmadiyah community from promulgating their religion. Both the fatwa and the Joint Ministerial Decree remain in force today.

Organisations like the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam — FPI), the Islamic Community Front (Front Umat Islam — FUI), and the Party of Liberation (Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia — HTI) developed extremist tendencies, but their criminal raids on entertainment venues and restaurants were not effectively countered by the police and judiciary.

On February 6, 2011 for instance, an angry mob attacked the premises of the Ahmadiyah congregation in Cikeusik, Pandeglang — Banten, West Java. Three Ahmadiyah followers were killed and five injured. The Ahmadiyah followers on site were trying to protect their congregation’s property against an announced attack aimed at forcing the community out of the village. The police, aware of the upcoming incident appeared with a few officers on the scene but were outnumbered by the attackers. While they witnessed the killings, they were unable to stop the crowd. Roni Pasaroni, Tubagus Candra Mubarok Syafai, and Warsono were killed.

The Serang District Court in West Java convicted 12 of the perpetrators for maltreatment, joint assault and incitement to violence with disproportionally light sentences of 3 — 6 months imprisonment. By the time the verdict was issued on April 28, 2011, the perpetrators had already served most of the sentence in trial detention. They were released only two weeks later.

Before the attack in February, the police had ordered the Ahmadiyah members to leave their property in Cikeusik. For violating this police order and injuring attackers, the Court sentenced Deden Sudjanda, the Ahmadyah national security chief to six months imprisonment.

The ALRC is concerned by such judgements by the Court, which lack impartiality, proportionality and serve to further undermine the religious freedom of minorities.

In 2011 alone, at least eight new local regulations prohibiting Ahmadiyah communities from exercising their religious rights were issued.

In a series of other cases, Christian churches were targeted through bombings and burnings. In such cases local administrations often submit to pressure by majority groups and the “fear of Christianisation”, and then ban these minority communities from worshipping on their land within villages and towns. The administrative reason given for this is often an alleged lack of building permits. The refusal by the targeted communities to leave town is then responded to with communal violence. Despite early warnings in several such attacks, the police have failed to prevent violence.

Several cases of such violent religious attacks occurred in 2011. For example, on April 15, 2011 a suicide bomber killed himself and injured 31 other people in the Adz-Zikra Mosque, in a police complex in Cirebon. On September 25, 2011, a bomb in the Bethel Ijil Sepenuh Church, in Central Java, injured 20 people. The suicide bomber died. On February 18, 2011, the Sleman church in Yogyakarta was sealed by the authorities.

In another case, the Yasmin congregation of the Indonesian Christian Church (Gereja Kristen Indonesia — GKI) has been prevented from conducting religious activities in their premises since April 10, 2010. Earlier, the Yasmin congregation was issued with a permit by the mayor of Bogor in 2006 to build a church in the Taman Yasmin area in Bogor, West Java. While construction was underway, the local City Planning and Landscape Department (Kepala Dinas Tata Kota dan Pertamanan Bogor) halted the construction with immediate effect. On December 9, 2010, the congregation won an appeal at the Supreme Court that allowed them to continue the church construction.

The Bogor authorities, however, have ignored the Supreme Court’s decision and continue to ban the church. The local city district police (Polresta Bogor) and the Civil Service Police Unit (Satpol PP) blocked the road to the church in order to stop the congregation from worshipping. On March 13, 2011, fully-armed mobile brigades (BRIMOB) of the local city district police forcibly dispersed the congregation. The congregation members were repeatedly intimidated and harassed by local opponents of the church. Due to pressure from hard-line groups, the mayor of Bogor subsequently revoked the building permit again.

On August 12, 2011 members of the FPI raided and destroyed property in restaurants and food stalls that opened for business during the fasting time. They were accompanied by local police, who did nothing to prevent these criminal activities.

Numerous similar cases in Java and other parts of the country indicate that the authorities are unwilling to protect religious minority groups and individuals from violent attacks by extremists. The failure to conduct investigations into such incidents has resulted in impunity for the perpetrators. This impunity is encouraged by the lack of independence and impartiality of the courts. Local authorities frequently violate laws and procedures due to pressure from local majority groups. As a result the freedom of religion is violated and constitutional values and protections lose relevance.

The government of Indonesia and local authorities should take all steps required to effective protect the freedom of religion, including by ensuring the adequate investigation of cases and punishment of perpetrators. The lack of punishment and prevention efforts against fundamentalist groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has caused enabled the deterioration of this situation. The formal attendance of the Governor of Jakarta and the Chief of the Indonesian National Police at FPI events is seen as providing support to such groups.


a. The government must end the encouragement of religious discrimination by the State, notably by repealing joint ministerial decree no. 3/2008.

b. The House of Representatives should review law no. 1/PNPS/1965 concerning the prevention of religious abuse and/or defamation to ensure the recognition and equal treatment of all religions under the law.

c. Criminal justice institutions should ensure that police officers who fail to protect rights are held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.

d. More efforts are required by the government to provide an effective justice system, uphold constitutional integrity and promote anti-corruption measures, in order to ensure a social order that upholds human rights and equality, thereby addressing the root causes of increased radicalisation and religious violence.

e. The Judicial Commission should investigate the judgement in the Cikeusik case concerning the mob attack and killing of members of the Ahmadiyah faith, as well as other controversial cases, to ensure that the verdicts are in line with domestic law, constitutional rights and Indonesia’s obligations under international law. Investigations must be launched systematically when allegations of religious discrimination in verdicts are made. Appropriate sanctions must be applied to any judges found to have acted contrary to the above.



About ALRC

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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