(New York) – Indonesia’s newly elected president, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, should focus efforts on tackling the country’s persistent human rights problems, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the president-elect.
Human Rights Watch made specific recommendations on issues concerning religious freedom, impunity of the security forces, women’s rights, free expression, Papua, domestic workers, child migrants, corruption, and indigenous land rights.
“As president, Widodo should reverse the failings of the previous administration by giving priority to the human rights problems that have gotten worse over the past decade,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “The new president needs to act decisively to signal that his government will protect the rights of all Indonesians and roll back the country’s culture of impunity.”
Widodo inherits a number of serious human rights problems that worsened during the decade-long administration of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The rising violence and discriminatory local laws against religious minorities is of gravest concern. Widodo should seek the revision of these discriminatory laws and ensure that government officials who incite violence against religious minorities are prosecuted.
There is still widespread impunity for members of the state security forces for their involvement in serious human rights abuses. Widodo should press for full investigations and prosecutions in key cases from the Suharto period to the present, and urge parliament to revive a bill that would provide civilian criminal court jurisdiction over military personnel responsible for offenses against civilians.
In Papua, the failure of Indonesia’s security forces to distinguish between violent acts and peaceful protests has contributed to rising tensions and insecurity in the province. Human Rights Watch urged Widodo to order the immediate and unconditional release of everyone imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their political views, and to permit foreign journalists and human rights organizations unimpeded access to the province.
In response to the deteriorating situation faced by women in Indonesia, Widodo should eliminate all discriminatory bylaws against women, and take stronger measures to address violence against women.
“Indonesia has all the ingredients to become a global model of an emerging democracy that both respects human rights at home and actively supports universal human rights standards internationally,” Kine said. “But that requires President Widodo to take a firm stand to protect the human rights of Indonesia’s marginalized groups, whether religious minorities, domestic workers, or Papuans.”