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France: Press Indonesia on Key Rights Concerns

Hollande Should Defend Persecuted Minorities, Oppose Death Penalty

(Paris) – French President François Hollande should publicly urge the Indonesian government to address the country’s persistent human rights problems during his upcoming visit to Jakarta, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the president. Hollande is scheduled to arrive in Indonesia for an “economic diplomacy” trip on March 29, 2017.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi hold a media briefing in Jakarta on February 28, 2017. © 2017 Reuters

“France should ensure that its pursuit of deeper economic ties with Indonesia does not come at the price of silence on human rights,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director. “Hollande should affirm that promoting and protecting people’s rights is critically important for any country strengthening its engagement with France.”

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has failed to deliver on his rhetorical support for human rights. Religious minorities face discriminatory regulations and violent attacks by militant Islamists, and acts of religious intolerance by the authorities are on the rise. In early 2016, Indonesian security forces were complicit in the violent forced eviction of more than 7,000 members of the Gafatar religious community from their homes in Kalimantan, following which the administration issued a decree banning Gafatar activities.

In April 2016, the government broke a decades-long taboo on challenging official justifications for the state-backed massacres of 1965-1966, in which up to one million people were killed. But the Indonesian government has failed to take further steps to seek justice for the killings. Hollande should urge Jokowi to move forward with a process for justice and reconciliation for past gross human rights abuses, including meaningful truth-telling efforts and the systematic documentation of mass grave sites.

Beginning in January 2016, high-ranking Indonesian officials have issued vitriolic condemnation of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population. That invective has fueled a surge in threats, intimidation, and violence against LGBT activists. Hollande should press Jokowi to publicly condemn the anti-LGBT violence and harassment, and make a commitment to protect Indonesia’s LGBT population.

Hollande should also push Jokowi to restore Indonesia’s unofficial moratorium on the death penalty and move toward eventual abolition. The execution of convicted drug traffickers has been a signature issue of Jokowi’s presidency, with 18 executions since he took office. Yet he recently suggested that the Indonesian government may move toward abolishing the death penalty, giving Hollande a meaningful inroad for urging Jokowi to restore the moratorium.

“As the first French president to visit Indonesia in 30 years, Hollande has a unique opportunity to demonstrate that France considers respect for universal human rights an inseparable component of improved trade relations,” Jeannerod said. “Hollande should send a signal to Indonesia’s beleaguered religious minorities and LGBT community that France will not turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in return for better economic ties.”

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