Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and his wife, Iriana, showing off their ink-marked fingers after casting ballots in the presidential election at a polling station in Jakarta on April 17, 2019. 

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(Jakarta) – Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo should use his second term to promote the human rights of all Indonesians, especially minorities and other marginalized populations, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the president.

Human Rights Watch made specific recommendations on issues including religious freedom, women’s and LGBT rights, accountability for abuses, free expression, the situation in Papua, indigenous land rights, disability rights, and Indonesia’s role at the United Nations.

“President Jokowi has five more years to take measures to bring real rights improvements in the lives of all Indonesians,” said Elaine Pearson of Human Rights Watch. “It’s crucial for the Jokowi government to tackle the upsurge in discrimination against religious and sexual minorities.”

Jokowi, who was re-elected in May 2019, will be inaugurated in October. On July 14, he delivered a speech outlining his priorities for his second term, including developing essential services, such as health care and education, as well as reforming Indonesia’s bureaucracy.

Growing intolerance against religious minorities in Indonesia since the fall of President Suharto in 1998 is a major human rights concern, Human Rights Watch said.

Successive national and local governments have often failed to protect members of religious minorities from discrimination and violence. The victims include non-Islam and non-Sunni minorities as well as followers of indigenous faiths. The 1965 blasphemy law and decrees on “religious harmony” have often contributed to this violence. The blasphemy law criminalizes the practice of religion that deviates from Indonesia’s six officially “protected” religions.

Jokowi’s government has taken steps to counter the rise of intolerant Islamism, but there have also been proposals to vet civil servants for their religious and political leanings.

Human Rights Watch urged the government to ensure that security force members implicated in serious abuses, including those involving command responsibility, are credibly and impartially investigated and appropriately disciplined or prosecuted. The government should organize public forums on ethnic and communal violence in Indonesia – including violence in Aceh and Lampung (Sumatra Island), the ethnic Chinese and Madurese massacres (Kalimantan Island), the communal violence in Poso (Sulawesi Island), and the violence in the Moluccas archipelago (including Ambon, Seram, Halmahera, Ternate), West Papua, and Papua provinces, as well as the nationwide massacres of communists and left-leaning activists from 1965 to 1966 – and set up a truth commission to document past atrocities.

The government should permit the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights unimpeded access to visit Papua and West Papua to examine the long-simmering human rights problems there.

The government should make full use of its current membership on the UN Security Council to protect and promote human rights around the globe and play a more active role in co-sponsoring resolutions about human rights problems in various countries at the UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Indonesian government has an important role to play supporting UN resolutions and other human rights initiatives particularly on China, Myanmar, the Philippines, and other Asian countries,” Pearson said.