Jokowi told to bring focus back on human rights

Jokowi told to bring focus back on human rights
President Joko Widodo.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo not to lose focus on human rights issues now that his government is focusing more on reviving the country's economy.

In its 656-page world report, where the organisation reviews human rights conditions in more than 90 countries, the organisation's executive director, Kenneth Roth, warned human rights violation could spark or aggravate serious security challenges.

"The short-term gains of undermining core values of freedom and non-discrimination are rarely worth the long-term price," he said in a press statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Friday.

The report said that while Jokowi had made commitments on some pressing human rights issues he had inherited, those commitments were vague and had yet to be backed by specific directives or policy measures.

Some of Jokowi's pledges were to investigate the disappearance of 13 pro-democracy activists in 1998 in the dying days of the Suharto dictatorship and lifting restrictions on foreign journalists traveling to and reporting from Papua and West Papua provinces.

"Although Jokowi indicated in July 2014 that he would seek to end the government stranglehold on foreign media access to Papua, he had not done so by year's end," the report said.

Jokowi's decision to execute death-row drug convicts also cast doubt on his commitment to human rights protection.

"Indonesia is on the wrong side of history. It really should join the global [movement on abolishing the death penalty]," HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said during a press conference in Central Jakarta on Friday.

Kine said the organisation was "extremely disappointed" by the government's decision to reintroduce executions.

"The death penalty is something that is inherently cruel, barbaric [and] unacceptable. It's irreversible," Kine said.

"We feel that the government of Indonesia has made a serious mistake by informing the public that executing drug traffickers is a deterrent to crime because all studies indicate that the death penalty is not a deterrent," Kine said.

Kine urged the government to immediately suspend executions - "something it can do tomorrow" - and analyse the data to find out whether or not the death penalty had a deterrent effect.

In the report, HRW also said Jokowi needed to focus on religious intolerance and women's rights.

In May 2014, seven people were left injured after Islamist militants attacked the home of book publisher Julius Felicianus in Yogyakarta while his family conducted an evening Christian prayer meeting.

Police arrested the alleged leader of the attack but later released him after local authorities pressured Felicianus to drop the charges to maintain religious harmony.

"The government should move quickly to defend religious minorities from harassment, intimidation and violence by militant groups," the report said.

Religious intolerance fueled by discriminatory local regulations remained a serious problem in the country.

In September, Aceh passed two Islamic bylaws that imposed Islamic law on non-Muslims, criminalizing alcohol drinking, consensual same-sex relations and all sexual relations outside marriage.

The bylaws permit punishment of up to 100 lashes and up to 100 months in prison.

In terms of women's rights, discriminatory regulations continued to proliferate, with 23 new discriminatory regulations passed by central and local governments in 2014.

In total, the country has 279 discriminatory local regulations targeting women, with 90 of those requiring girls and women, mostly students and civil servants, to wear the hijab.

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