Sunday, Dec. 12 marked the 70th anniversary of Human Rights Day, which is celebrated annually and internationally. To commemorate the observance, many government, non-governmental, civil and social organizations host cultural events and exhibitions that are human-rights orientated. The purpose of recognizing this day is to establish the equal worth in every person regardless of skin color, race, culture, nationality and any other form of status, because at the end of the day we are all one and the same.
Although many nations have made efforts to practice equality, not all have made great progress yet. Across the seas, Indonesia still needs to reform its criminal justice system. The country recognizes human rights, yet does not enforce them, as there is a difference between merely acknowledging human rights and actually protecting them. It begins with conventional ideology which is not as reformed as it should be. Issues the country are currently facing include unpunished torture, land grabbing, discrimination and the lack of freedom of opinion, religion or assembly.
Indonesia has consented to the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment — an international human rights treaty — yet has not created a law that explicitly recognizes torture as a crime. The country simply views it as a maltreatment and thus cases of torture go unpunished. Majority of the torture cases involve authoritative officers trying to extract confessions from suspects. More recently, there has been an increase in the instances involving members of the LGBTQ community as same-sex marriage has not been completely recognized by the government, according to the Human Rights Watch.
Another cause of concern is the "land grabbing" occurring within the country. Indonesia makes its profit off of coffee beans, spices and other agrarian products, thus possession of land is much desired. Large companies, wealthy community members and even government agencies are taking land illegally from families living at or by plantations and forcing them to evict.
According to the Land Reform Commission, in 2014 alone there was 472 recorded cases of grain conflicts in Indonesia, and these conflicts involved 1.1 million miles of land. The land is taken up to create and reform the infrastructure, deforest the area or for mining. Land is taken so that companies and their investors are able to boost economic growth, and the conflicts derived from the seizure result in violence, torture and the deprivation of liberty.
Another human rights violation is the lack of religious freedom. The main offenders are intolerant groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) who marginalize minorities until they convert to the Shari'ah Law. The FPI is the largest terrorist organization in the country. It presents itself as an ally to the government, since it acts like a security force in implementing other conventional laws through hate speech and violent attacks toward individuals or groups it considers to be ""
The government fails to take drastic measures to protect the minority groups. An example is the government's lack of intervention during the conflict facing the Shia community — a branch of Islam — against the FPI. As a result, the minority community has been living in a public camp for more than five years. Part of the reason the government does not step in seems to be because it fears the FPI, and would rather let the group continue with its own agenda to avoid conflict. In doing so, the government fails to fulfill its job to protect all its people.
The country also struggles to enable a safe space for the freedom of opinion and peaceful assembly. Anti-Communist groups have condemned the people's rights to freedom of speech. These mobs have crashed public exhibitions such as seminars and workshops, claiming that these events are propagating the communist ideology.
An incident occurred just this past September, when several human rights groups congregated to discuss the truth behind the 1965-1966 massacres, a painful event woven into the tapestry of the country's past in which approximately 500,000 to 1 million people lost their lives. An anti-communist mob with close to 1,000 protesters encircled the site and threw stones, forcibly entered the building and used violence to break apart the meeting. Yet again, there was no reprimanding from the government, giving the green light for such forceful interventions to occur again.
To protect all the individuals of the country, the Indonesian government needs to enhance the civility of the police and similar disciplinary authoritative figures which are typically involved in human rights violations. Indonesia's criminal justice system is in dangerous need of reform, so that all people can experience equality.
Harleen Singh is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. Her column, "Got Rights?", runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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