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Indonesia: President’s New Term Should Focus on Human Rights

Key Reforms Needed to Address Persistent Problems

(New York) - Indonesia's recently re-elected president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, should undertake comprehensive measures to address persistent human rights problems, Human Rights Watch said in a letter today. In the letter, Human Rights Watch makes specific recommendations on the issues of corruption, military business, impunity, religious freedom, freedom of expression, the situation in Papua, and child domestic workers.

Some major reforms during Yudhoyono's first term addressing military business, corruption and accountability have lost steam. For instance, the Anti-Corruption Court, established in 2004, could cease to exist if legislation regarding the court is not passed by September 30. The government has also failed to prosecute senior military commanders for atrocities committed in Aceh and East Timor.

"President Yudhoyono had some successes on human rights in his first term, but he needs to make sure those reforms really stick," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The time is ripe to address areas where reforms have been bogged down, such as the military, corruption and impunity."

Human Rights Watch also expressed concern about rising religious intolerance, particularly against the Ahmadiyah, a religious minority now banned in Indonesia, and the continuing use of criminal laws to repress freedom of expression. The Human Rights Watch letter urged Indonesia, as a party to the major human rights treaties, to live up to its international legal obligations.

"Indonesia should take its obligations under international treaties seriously and this means protecting the rights of marginalized groups, whether they are religious minorities, child domestic workers or Papuans," Pearson said. "President Yudhoyono could make human rights his legacy and be a role model for other emerging democracies."

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