Subject: Amnesty paints gloomy picture of RI human rights

Amnesty paints gloomy picture of RI human rights

Dicky Christanto , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 05/30/2009 10:33 AM | Headlines

Despite it being 11 years since Indonesia entered the reform era, attacks on freedom of expression and excessive force are still rampant across the archipelago, according to the latest report from Amnesty International.

The report, released Thursday in London, said the number of prisoners of conscience rose sharply to 117 people, while the number of people arrested and detained for peacefully expressing their views increased to at least 32 people in 2008.

An additional 85 people imprisoned in previous years remained in jail, it added.

"It remained a criminal offence to raise the *Morning Star' flag in Papua, the *Benang Raja' flag in Maluku, and the *Crescent Moon' flag in NAD," the report said.

Amnesty highlighted the fact that excessive force was used by both the police and military when handling demonstrations and other activities.

The report said the situation in the two conflict areas, Papua and Maluku, continued to deteriorate.

Papuan community leaders were intimidated and threatened by the military and police, it said.

"There were reports of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, excessive use of force and extrajudicial executions by security forces."

Twenty-one men in Maluku, who performed a traditional war dance in front of the President and then unfurled the outlawed "Benang Raja" flag, were sentenced to between seven and 20 years' imprisonment for "rebellion" in trials in 2008, Amnesty said.

It said freedom of religion was similarly under attack, with the Jamaah Ahmadiyah religious minority continuing to face discrimination, intimidation and violence.

Commenting on the report, police affairs expert Bambang Widodo Umar from Indonesia University said both the police and the military continued to operate under a mentality of safeguarding the state.

He added that the top priority of security forces was making the government the representation of the state, and not the people.

"Thus it is no wonder that if, whenever the government pits itself against the people as conflicting parties, automatically the authorities such as the police and the military will defend the government by using firm actions against those opposed to it, as the representation of the state," he told The Jakarta Post.

Bambang added that issues related to people's welfare were often the key factor behind such violence.

Prominent criminologist Adrianus Meliala concurred, saying that such incidences in Papua were always related with local people's welfare, which has so far not been properly addressed by the government.

"The government has always suspected demonstrations or any level of freedom of expression to be movements to seek independence, but in fact the government forgets that dissatisfaction continues because the government has always failed to seek a comprehensive solution to increase the local people's wellbeing," he said.

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