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Respect and protect Ahmadiyahs’ freedom of religion and belief

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The Indonesia Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), a FORUM-ASIA member, is urging the government not to ban the Ahmadiyahs’ freedom to practice their own religion and beliefs. The NGO has outlined several recommendations which it says the authorities must follow in order to respect and protect freedom of religion and belief in the country.

Press Release

Indonesia Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (Persatuan Perhimpunan Bantuan Hukum dan Hak Asasi Indonesia – PBHI)

(Jakarta, 05 May, 2008) According to its plans on Monday (05 May), the Attorney General, Minister of Religion and Minister of Interior Affairs will issue a joint letter of decision on Ahmadiyah in line with the recommendations of the Public Faiths Supervision Coordinating Body (Bakor Pakem). Today they will determine whether the Ahmadiyah teachings will be banned or permitted.

Indonesia’s Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) felt it was necessary to express our position to the government about its decision, which will endanger and threaten freedom of religion or belief in Indonesia and urge the government to:

1. Reject any form of interference by the country/government on religious freedom or belief, allow everyone or every group the freedom to choose their religion or belief because any form of interference – without indication of a criminal act – is equal to disrespecting and not protecting that freedom. Interference or intervention means a violation has been committed by the country/government.
2. Because religious freedom or belief include the fundamental freedom in itself as non-derogable rights, therefore the banning of Ahmadiyah can be categorised as a gross violation of human rights. Firstly, it goes against the obligation to respect. Secondly, it violates the obligation to protect. Thirdly, with the ban, the next step is that the country/government has indeed committed a violation (of these obligations).

3. When the official authority issues a ban, a serious implication for the Ahmdiyah community includes the loss of religious teachings or lessons in faith which they have all this time held on to. What is more threatening is that Ahmadiyah followers will be turned into criminals. This trend means that the country/government has changed its responsibility to respect and protect freedom into prohibition, and the next step is the criminalisation of its followers.

4. Bakor Pakem is an institution which firmly allows the government to interfere in the freedom of religion and belief of every individual or every group. This institution includes the idea of a religious territory, which in practice threatens the freedom of religion and belief. The pattern of threats had been targeting religious minorities, including the Ahmadiyah group.

5. Bakor Pakem has failed to consider religious minorities such as the Ahmadiyah as victims of violations, who have lost their places of worship (mosques) and schools. Ahmadiyah believers have become the target of abuse just because they believe and practice the religion differently from the mainstream. Bakor Pakem has become the “main gate” through which the government enters to violate the freedom of religion and belief.

6. The views of the government fail and will lead to intolerant actions and behaviours and discrimination based on religion and belief. In fact, it is clear that the government – slow in promoting peace and rule of law – allows and closes its eyes to the fact that minorities have become a target of violence. Bakor Pakem’s intolerant and discriminative character cannot be seen only from the existence of the Indonesian Religious Scholars’ Council (MUI – Majelis Ulama Indonesia) in it, but far from that, one can guess that the government is not interested in fulfilling its promises to respect and protect the freedom of religion and belief of minority groups.
7. The existence of Bakor Pakem has caused the government to be “blind”, because it encourages the authorities to commit a series of violations related to freedom of religion and belief. The government has not only committed international human rights violations, but also violations of UUD 1945 and UU HAM, including the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by the UU No. 12/2005.

8. The authorities involved in Bakor Pakem will not only be violating the freedom of religion and belief, but also other rights such as the right to assembly, thought and association, and in fact violates the right to education as schools have been destroyed, and what is more frightening is violating the security of those who profess to the banned religion.

Today is an opportunity for the Attorney General, Religious Minister and Interior Affairs Minister to reverse this trap and reinstate their responsibility to respect and protect the freedom of religion and belief. We also urge the government to abolish the Bakor Pakem apparatus because this has resulted in continued violations by the authorities in matters related to religion and belief.

National Management Body
Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI)
Syamsuddin Radjab, Chief