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Dear President Hollande,

We are writing on behalf of Human Rights Watch concerning your visit to Indonesia on March 29. France has long been a crucial voice around the globe in promoting respect for human rights. As the first French president to visit Indonesia in 30 years, you have a unique opportunity to urge the Indonesian government to address continuing human rights concerns and fulfill its international legal obligations. We encourage you to both publicly and privately press President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Indonesian officials on issues including freedom of religion, accountability for past human rights abuses, the death penalty, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights.

Since taking office, President Jokowi’s rhetorical support for human rights has yet to translate into meaningful policy initiatives to address the country’s serious rights problems. Despite Jokowi’s voiced commitments on religious freedom, religious minorities continue to face discriminatory regulations and violent attacks by Islamist militant groups. Acts of religious intolerance and violations of religious freedom 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. This March, three Gafatar leaders were sentenced to prison for up to five years under Indonesia’s blasphemy law.

In April 2016, the government broke a decades-long taboo on open discussion of the state-backed massacres of up to one million alleged communists and others in 1965-1966. However, the government has provided no details of an official accountability process. Jokowi’s decision in July 2016 to appoint as security minister retired general Wiranto, who was indicted by a United Nations-supported tribunal for crimes against humanity, has heightened concerns about his administration’s commitment to justice.

Beginning in January 2016, high-ranking Indonesian officials made a series of vitriolic anti-LGBT pronouncements, giving rise to increased threats, intimidation, and violence against LGBT activists and individuals, primarily by Islamist militants. Jokowi has failed to adequately address the discriminatory statements and policies issued by senior government and military officials that have fueled abuses toward the country’s LGBT population.

Jokowi has issued mixed messages on his support for the death penalty. The execution of convicted drug traffickers was a signature issue of Jokowi’s presidency, with 18 executions carried out since he took office. Yet he recently suggested that the Indonesian government may emulate European governments by moving toward abolishing the death penalty.

We urge you to raise these serious human rights concerns during your visit, and affirm that human rights are critical to France’s engagement with Indonesia. In strengthening its economic partnership with Indonesia, France should call on the government to create an environment in which the rights of all, particularly minorities and vulnerable groups, are protected and promoted.

Specifically, we ask that you press President Jokowi to:

  • Seek to amend or revoke regulations that discriminate against religious minorities or exacerbate bigotry in Indonesia, including the blasphemy law and the house of worship regulation.
  • Take immediate disciplinary action against all government officials, including cabinet members, governors, regents, and other officials who make statements or engage in actions that promote religious discrimination or condone violence against religious groups.
  • Seek criminal prosecution of government officials who incite violence against religious minorities.
  • Move forward with an official accountability process for the 1965-66 mass killings, including meaningful and public truth-telling efforts, redress for victims, and documentation of alleged mass grave sites.
  • Conduct all exhumations of mass grave sites and identification of victims with the assistance of international forensic experts with experience in mass grave recovery operations.
  • Ensure that members of the Indonesian security forces implicated in serious human rights violations, including those involving command responsibility, are credibly and impartially investigated and disciplined or prosecuted as appropriate.
  • Restore Indonesia’s unofficial moratorium on the death penalty and move toward eventual abolition.
  • Publicly condemn all major incidents of anti-LGBT violence and harassment that occur in Indonesia, acknowledge the scope and gravity of the problem, and commit to taking steps to end these abuses.
  • Order all provincial, district, and municipal governments to repeal discriminatory by-laws that violate international standards or contravene the Indonesian constitution.
  • Direct the Indonesian police internal affairs division to investigate incidents of police collusion with militant Islamist groups in attacks on LGBT people and activists, and hold those responsible accountable.
  • Order all ministries to rescind anti-LGBT edicts, and ask the Ministry of Health to publicly reject the assertion by the Indonesian Psychiatric Association that homosexuality is a diagnosable mental health condition.

Thank you for your consideration. We would be happy to further discuss these and other human rights issues with you and members of your administration.


Bénédicte Jeannerod
France Director

Brad Adams
Asia Director

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