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Indonesia told to prioritize human rights

Rohingya men from Myanmar are transported on a truck in Langsa, Aceh province after they were rescued by Indonesian fishermen off the eastern coast of Aceh in May. (Photo by Romeo Gacad/AFP)

By Ryan Dagur
January 6, 2015

Government criminalizes activism rather than punish corrupt officials, group says

A Jakarta-based nongovernmental organization is urging the government to prioritize human rights and not focus merely on economic development.

"The administration of President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla paid little attention to human rights and democracy. It could be seen from various foreign policies focusing merely on economic interests," said Rafendi Djamin, executive director of the Human Rights Working Group, during the launch of the organization's annual report on Jan. 5.

The annual report highlights last year's situation of human rights in the country.

Djamin criticized the government's slow response to several humanitarian crises, citing humanitarian aid for Rohingya asylum seekers and haze disaster victims as examples.

In May, an estimated 2,000 refugees — mostly Rohingyas from Myanmar, but also Bangladeshi migrants — came ashore in northern Aceh.

In the same year, haze caused by slash-and-burn farming techniques used by palm oil, pulp and paper plantations hampered for several months residents in Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, Jambi, Riau and South Sumatra provinces.

Djamin said that instead of fighting corruption and holding violators accountable, the government criminalized the actions of activists.

In its annual report, the group said Indonesia's persistent use of the death penalty shows that the "government hasn't yet moved forward to become a state which can be counted on in the context of human rights."

Muhammad Hafiz, a researcher at the organization, noted that 27 people have been executed in Indonesia since 1999. No executions were carried out between 2009 and 2012. However, last year, the government executed 14 people, including 12 foreigners on drugs charges.

On religious freedom, Hafiz said the government also has failed to promote religious freedom.

"The government wasn't strong enough to prevent radicalism, intolerance and discrimination, which became too massive and cut away the values of national life," he said.

"The government must make human rights a foundation of the national development," he said.

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