June 16, 2011

Prof. Dr. Eman Suparman

Chairman

Judiciary Commission of the Republic of Indonesia

Jl. Kramat Raya 57

Jakarta

 

Via facsimile: +62 21 3906215

Via email: kyri@komisiyudisial.go.id

Re: Monitoring Trials at Serang District Court

 

Dear Dr. Suparman,

Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization that seeks to promote and protect human rights in some 90 countries throughout the world. We write to you to ask the Judiciary Commission to send representatives to monitor the trials currently before the Serang district court in western Java of 12 defendants[1] accused of various charges for their role in the attack on the Ahmadiyah community in Cikeusik village, Banten province, on February 6, 2011. These trials commenced on April 26.

On February 6, a mob of some 1,500 people attacked 20 members of the Ahmadiyah community. Three Ahmadis were killed and five were seriously wounded. The attack was captured by an amateur videographer and the graphic footage has been broadcast by media outlets around the world. The violence in the video shocked the world and the international community is closely watching to see if justice is served. Unfortunately, Indonesia has a track record of failing to successfully prosecute crimes against religious minorities, which exacerbates a culture of violent persecution.

Police have so far acted professionally to maintain security in the courtroom, given the large numbers of protesters gathering at times outside the court. But Human Rights Watch remains deeply concerned about the trials. None of the defendants have been charged with murder or manslaughter, but various other crimes including assault causing death, inciting public disorder, and maltreatment (less serious assault), participating in assault, and illegal possession of sharp weapons.[2]

The Judiciary Commission is empowered to monitor trials, as part of its mandate is to monitor the judiciary to be "effective, open and trustworthy."  We believe the case should be monitored by the Judiciary Commission for three reasons. First, these are extremely important trials for religious freedom in Indonesia and already are of broad international concern. Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in violence directed towards religious minorities, particularly, the Ahmadiyah. These trials can be an opportunity to strengthen justice in response to attacks on religious minorities in Indonesia.

Second, monitoring of the trials by the Judiciary Commission would help ensure that the trials are conducted impartially. In the trial of defendant Adam Damini, during an eight-minute video clip of the three-hour questioning of an Ahmadiyah witness, Deden Sujana, a judge berated the witness about his religious faith and the motivations behind the community's religious activities at the time of the attack. And defense lawyers have asked inappropriate and irrelevant questions of some witnesses - such as probing the religious faith of Sujana - in an apparent effort to intimidate them with no interference from the judges. Outside the court room, a defense lawyer said that Sujana must be "bullied till he shits" ["digencet hingga mencret"], but has suffered no rebuke from the court.

The Serang district court is separately hearing a case against Sujana for his role in provoking the attack. Prosecutors have called for Sujana to be sentenced to at least six years in prison, on charges of provocation, disobeying police orders, and maltreatment (less serious assault). We ask you to also monitor Sujana's trial closely.

Finally, the trial judges expressed their intent to finish the trials in July on the grounds that it should be completed prior to the Ramadan fasting month. We are concerned that the trials may be rushed to meet this deadline, which would not serve the interests of a fair and just trial.

The Ahmadiyah, who consider themselves to be Muslims, have long been the targets of violence and persecution in Indonesia because some Muslims view them as heretics to Islam. According to the Setara Institute, violence against the Ahmadiyah has increased dramatically from 3 incidents in 2006 to 50 in 2010. Too often these crimes are carried out with the complicity of local law enforcement. Few cases of religious violence make it to court, but when perpetrators do stand trial their sentences rarely match the seriousness of their crimes. For instance, in a trial that began in January in Bogor district court regarding an October 2010 attack in Cisalada village that resulted in injuries to several Ahmadiyah, three defendants were tried for setting fire to an Ahmadiyah mosque, a school, and more than a dozen houses. On April 14, the defendants were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms of between four and six months, while an Ahmadiyah man who tried to defend himself from attack was sentenced to a nine-month term.

The ongoing trials in Serang can play an important role in reaffirming Indonesia's commitments to principles of religious freedom and the rule of law. We urge the Judiciary Commission to monitor the trials, which will help ensure that they are conducted in an impartial, secure, and transparent manner.

Sincerely,

Elaine Pearson

Deputy Director, Asia Division

Cc: 

Patrialis Akbar, Minister of Law and Human Rights

Rasminto, Chief Judge, Serang District Court


 


[1] The twelve defendants include 11 men, Adam Damini, Endang, Idris, Muhamad, Muhamad Munir, Saad Baharudin, Ujang, Ujang Muhamad Arif, Yusuf Abidin, Muhamad Rohidin, and Yusri, and one boy [name withheld].

[2] The charges include Article 160 (public order and incitement of a punishable act), Article 170 (assault causing destruction of property, serious physical injury, and/or death), Article 351 (maltreatment; less serious assault), Article 358 (participating in assault) of the Penal Code and Emergency Law 1951 (illegal possession of sharp weapons).