The United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights Navanethem Pillay has strongly urged Indonesiato amend or repeal laws and regulations she deemed discriminatory against religious minorities.
Pillay also urged the Indonesian government to accept the presence of a UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion as a response to the ongoing religious persecution in the country.
The Indonesian government is yet to allow the presence of UN special rapporteurs on religion and on forced disappearance, among other things.
She stressed the urgency for the government to amend the 1965 Blasphemy Law, the 1969 and 2006 ministerial decrees on building houses of worship and religious harmony, and the 2008 joint ministerial decree on Ahmadiyah or risk the country’s pluralist nature being hijacked by religious extremists.
"Indonesia has a rich culture and history of diversity and tolerance, which has been nurtured over many years. At the same time, it risks losing this if firm action is not taken to address increasing levels of violence and hatred toward religious minorities and narrow and extremist-interpretations of Islam," she told reporters at the headquarters of the UN Mission in Indonesia yesterday.
Pillay said that she had met with representatives from the Indonesian government and warned them of the dire consequences of religious intolerance.
"I have met representatives of the government and alerted them that small situations can develop into serious situations, such as the exploitation of the ethnic division that we are now seeing in Syria, which has become part of the political struggle," she added.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) had previously included such a recommendation on a list of 180 recommendations forwarded to the Indonesian government during a quadrennial Universal Periodic Review last May.
The Indonesian government refused to adopt the recommendation, arguing that those regulations were mandated by the Constitution.
In the press briefing, Pillay particularly highlighted the ongoing persecution against the Sampang Shia community, members of the Ahmadiyah, as well as parishioners of the Taman Yasmin Christian Church (GKI) and the Bekasi Filadelfia Church.
"I was distressed to hear accounts of violence, attacks, forced displacement, denial of identification cards and other forms of discrimination and harassment. I was also concerned to hear that the police have been failing to provide adequate protection in these cases," she said.
Other than religious persecution, Pillay also spoke out about the persecution of human rights campaigners in the country, including in Papua.
She also demanded a new probe into the killing of human rights defender Munir Said Thalib, who was murdered in 2004, as well as a review of the trial of former National Intelligence Agency (BIN) deputy chairman Muchdi Purwoprandjono.
Pillay had met representatives from Sampang's Shia community, the Ahmadiyah, the GKI Yasmin and the Filadelfia Church on Sunday.
Unfortunately, she failed to deliver the issue to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono because a meeting with Yudhoyono "was not set up".
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsudin declined to comment on the situation when contacted by The Jakarta Post yesterday evening.
Margareth S. Aritonang and Yohana Ririhena
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