What will be the next violation of human rights in Indonesia?
First there was the Aceh Legislative Council that passed the Qanun Jinayat punishing adultery and homosexual conduct with stoning to death and caning. Then there was the Constitutional Court decision upholding the Anti-Pornograhy law that criminalizes homosexuality, and leaves room to criminalize sensuality violating especially cultural minorities’ freedom of expression. Finally there came the mobs attacking the ILGA Asia Conference participants in broad daylight of Surabaya.
On March 23rd the Indonesian police cancelled the regional Asia Conference of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA) that was to be held in Surabaya through 26 – 28 March and was to be attended by more than 150 activists representing 100 organizations from 16 Asian countries. It is claimed that the police cancelled the conference due to pressures and threat of attacks from conservative Muslim groups, though in fact the duty of the police was to deter such attacks. As theinability of a state and its law enforcement units to protect the freedom of expression and association can only reflect institutional discrimination and systematic intimidation against human rights advocates.
On March 26th these groups did indeed attack the Conference participants in the Oval Hotel where they were trapped, having arrived in Surabaya unaware of the last minute cancelation, and unable to leave the city.
We know that the freedom of association is protected by the law in Indonesia, and we also know that though not required by law, the Organizing Committee had received the permit for the conference and that this permit was withdrawn by the police in Surabaya, which allegedly feared violent attacks by radical Islamic groups.
Yet the same police had no fear dining with the attackers in the lobby of the Oval Hotel, while the mob harassed the Conference participants subjecting them to verbal and physical abuse. The mob also sealed the office of GAYa NUSANTARA, the local organization that hosted the conference. This office is still closed and human rights activists in Surabaya are still under the threat of further attacks.
In a country such as Indonesia that prides itself on its diversity, and is supposed to uphold the universal principles of human rights, these acts of violence and intimidation against human rights activists are simply and completely unacceptable. In a democratizing country such as Indonesia, the duty of the state, its legal instruments and its police is to guarantee the constitutional right of association of the people, and not to deprive them of this right by sheltering pressure groups that wrongfully use the name of Islam to further their political agendas.
As 38 leading non-governmental organizations and academic institutions from 16 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, South and South East Asia, we call upon the members of the press to spread the news on these outrageous violations of human rights, so that the authorities take immediate and solid action to guarantee the safety of the Conference organizers and participants who are still in Surabaya, and reopen the doors of GAYa NUSANTARA and safeguard the security of all its members.
Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR)
CSBR Coordination Office: Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways, TURKEY
Association des Femmes Tunisiennes pour la Recherche et le Développement (AFTURD), TUNISIA
Ahfad University for Women (AUW), SUDAN
Association Marocaine des Droits des Femmes (AMDF), MOROCCO
Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW), MALAYSIA
Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc (ADFM), MOROCCO
Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates (ATFD), TUNISIA
BRAC University, BANGLADESH
Collectif Maghreb Egalité, ALGERIA
Egyptian Initiative For Personal Rights (EIPR), EGYPT
GAYa NUSANTARA, INDONESIA
Indonesian Women Association for Justice (APIK), INDONESIA
Institut Pelangi Perempuan (IPP), INDONESIA
Jordanian Women's Union, JORDAN
LAMBDAISTANBUL LGBTT Association, TURKEY
Lebanese Council to Resist Violence Against Women (LECORVAW), LEBANON
MADA al-CARMEL - Arab Center for Applied Social Research, PALESTINE
Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC), MALAYSIA
Muntada - Arab Forum for Sexuality, Education and Health, PALESTINE
New Woman Foundation (NWF), EGYPT
Pilipina Legal Resources Center (PLRC), PHILIPPINES
Rassemblement Contre la Hogra et pour les Droits des Algériennes (RACHDA), ALGERIA
RESEAU WASSILA, ALGERIA
Sisters Arabic Forum (SAF), YEMEN
Sisters in Islam (SIS), MALAYSIA
Synergie Civique, MOROCCO
Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC), PALESTINE
Women Against Violence (WAV), PALESTINE
Women's Aid Organization (WAO), MALAYSIA
Women's Health Foundation, INDONESIA
The Queen Zein Al Sharaf Institute for Development (ZENID), JORDAN
(Letterhead of your organization)
We express our deep concern over the withdrawal of the permit for the regional Asia Conference of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA- a worldwide federation of more than 560 local, national and international organizations), which was to be held in Surabaya from 26 to 28 March 2010 and attended by more than 150 activists representing 100 organizations from 16 Asian countries. It was reported that the permit was withdrawn by the police in Surabaya, which allegedly feared violent attacks by radical Islamic groups.
We are further disturbed that on March 26th these groups attacked and harassed conference participants who were staying in the Oval Hotel, having arrived in Surabaya unaware of the last minute cancellation and unable to leave the city. Reports and eyewitness accounts tell of verbal and physical abuse, and the lack of action by the police to fulfill its duty to address these violations – further, it was alleged that the police were in contact with the attackers, even dining with them in the lobby of the Oval Hotel. The mob also sealed the office of GAYa NUSANTARA, the local organization hosting the conference. This office is still closed and human rights activists in Surabaya are still under the threat of further attacks.
We remind the government of Indonesia that as a member of the United Nations and as a State party to major human rights treaties – including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – it has an obligation to promote, protect and fulfill the rights of all persons without discrimination. Indonesia has for some time been a leader in Southeast Asia in the progressive realization of human rights, as evidenced by the State support for the work of Komnas HAM (Human Rights National Commission of Indonesia) and Komnas Perempuan (National Commission on Violence Against Women), as well as its role in the process leading up to the creation of the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights. The Indonesian constitution itself protects the right to freedom of association, and it is the duty of the state, its legal instruments and its police to uphold this provision.
The acts of violence and intimidation perpetrated against human rights activists in Surabaya not only violate universal principles of human rights, but also jeopardise the recent hard-won gains on human rights issues and the respect for diversity in Indonesia. Furthermore, the seeming impunity under which the attacks took place may send a signal to groups and individuals that violence in the name of religion receives tacit support from the authorities, thus discouraging their victims from seeking redress. This is especially critical for those already marginalized due to multiple layers of discrimination, including gay, lesbian, transgendered and intersexed persons.
We call on the government of Indonesia to: bring the perpetrators of the attacks to justice; guarantee the safety of human rights activists, including GAYa NUSANTARA, Conference organizers and participants still in Surabaya; ensure that all State institutions, including the police, are trained to respect and uphold humans rights without discrimination; and fulfill its obligations under international human rights treaties.
COUNTRY OF YOUR ORGANIZATION / PLATFORM/ NETWORK