Protesters will today oppose the World Statesman Award to Indonesia’s President Susilo Yudhoyono from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation. The demonstration is in support of the intense criticism of the award from groups suffering from religious intolerance in Indonesia and groups advocating for religious freedom, human rights and justice. The protest will condemn the honoring of Indonesia’s President by the Foundation, which describes itself as dedicated to promoting religious tolerance and human rights.
“We will be demonstrating to set the record straight.” said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. “President Yudhoyono must not be allowed to polish his image while incidents of religious intolerance increase, the prospects for justice for past rights violations diminishes, and violations by Indonesia’s security forces continue.”
The Appeal of Conscience Foundation plans to give a highly controversial World Statesman Award to Indonesia’s President Yudhoyono this week. The award has generated heated controversy in Indonesia, inspiring demonstrations and other protests. More than 8000 people – from inside and outside Indonesia – have signed two petitions opposing the award. Several churches, minority religious institutions and human rights groups in Indonesia have written the foundation calling on the Foundation to withdraw the award. They are especially worried that the award will give the wrong impression internationally about the state of human rights and religious tolerance in the country. The Foundation has yet to respond directly to their concerns.
When President Yudhoyono first took office, he promised that his administration would promote human rights and tolerance. Nine years later, the prospects for accountability for past rights violations have receded; religious intolerance has grown. Indonesia’s security forces have become increasingly abusive in West Papua. Police and soldiers who violate human rights are rarely held accountable. Serious human rights violations by members of the military are tried in military courts where soldiers, if convicted, receive light sentences.
Recent examples of religious persecution include the March 21 demolition of the HKBP Taman Sari church in Bekasi after an order from the regional government. Four Ahmadiyah places of worship were closed within a month in West Java. Last August, members of the Shia community in Sampang, East Java, were forced from their homes members of the majority Sunni attacked them for so-called blasphemy. They continue to struggle in a makeshift camp in a sports stadium.
In 2006, President Yudhoyono issued a regulation on building houses of worship that makes it extremely difficult for religious minorities to construct their buildings. He signed a law that allows the listing of only six religions on Indonesian ID cards, basically discriminating against more than 350 other small religions. In 2009, Yudhoyono sent his cabinet members to defend the blasphemy law when it was challenged at the Constitutional Court. They mobilized Muslim militias to harass the petitioners and their lawyers. In April 2010, the Constitutional Court upheld the law, which provides criminal penalties for those who express religious beliefs that deviate from the six officially-recognized religions. The court said it is lawful to restrict minority beliefs because it allows for the “maintenance of public order.” In 2008, Yudhoyono issued an anti-Ahmadiyah decree, threatening to five years jail term for anyone who “propagates” the group’s teachings.
An ad hoc tribunal to investigate and prosecute the 1997-98 the disappearance of human rights activists has yet to be established, though it has been approved by the legislature. Yudhoyono’s own coordinating minister for political, legal, and security affairs and Attorney General have rejected the official human rights commission’s findings that the government’s anti-Communist purges of 1965 and 1966 – which included mass killings of up to one million people, enslavement, torture, rape, and enforced disappearance – constituted a crime against humanity. The truth commission and human rights courts authorized by the 2006 law on Aceh have yet to be established. There has been no accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Indonesian forces in Timor-Leste, where as many as 183,000 were killed, or West Papua, where at least 100,000 have died.
On taking office, President Yudhoyono declared that solving the September 2004 murder of Munir Said Thalib, Indonesia’s best known human rights activist, would be a test of “whether Indonesia had changed.” The President and Indonesia have failed the test. He has refused to release the report of the fact-finding team he set up early in his Presidency. The murder involved the national intelligence agency and serving and former military officers; none of them have been brought to justice.
Additional background can be found here: http://etan.org/action/action2/sby_award.htm