Indonesia must tackle increasing levels of discrimination and violence as well as translate its commitments into domestic law if the young democracy is to improve the protection of human rights for all its citizens, a top United Nations official said Tuesday.
"Indonesia has a rich culture and history of diversity and tolerance. At the same time, it risks losing this if firm action is not taken to address increasing levels of violence and hatred towards religious minorities and narrow and extremist interpretations of Islam," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital, Jakarta, Pillay commended the South-east Asian nation for its high rate of ratification of international human rights treaties. It is party to eight core human rights conventions.
At the same time, during her talks with the Government, the High Commissioner stressed the importance of translating Indonesia's international human rights obligations into domestic law.
"I have seen that this process has begun in many areas and encourage the Government to continue with this and resist any back-sliding in legislative standards at the local or national levels," she stated.
She added that Indonesia remains a young democracy, which has suffered from decades of military rule, and still has to strengthen accountability mechanisms aimed at identifying responsibilities for past and present human rights violations.
A fundamental principle of international human rights law, she continued, is non-discrimination.
"Indonesia has a rich culture and history of diversity and tolerance," she said. "At the same time, it risks losing this if firm action is not taken to address increasing levels of violence and hatred towards religious minorities and narrow and extremist-interpretations of Islam."
During her visit, Pillay met with representatives from the Ahmadiyya, Christian, Shia and traditional belief communities.
"I was distressed to hear accounts of violent attacks, forced displacement, denial of identification cards and other forms of discrimination and harassment against them," she said. "I was also concerned to hear that the police have been failing to provide adequate protection in these cases."
She said she was also shocked to hear the level of discrimination and injustices that many women victims of violence that she met with said they had faced.
"I am particularly concerned to hear about the arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of Sharia Law in Aceh, enforcing brutal punishments of stoning and caning, and raids on hair salons and other places where people gather, creating an environment of intimidation and fear.
"I was also concerned to hear about police violence against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex community and urged the Government to ensure their protection. I also encouraged the Government to ensure sexual and reproductive rights of unmarried girls and women," said Pillay.
While on her visit, the High Commissioner continued, she learned more about the "extent and egregious nature" of past violations of human rights, from the killings of communists in 1965 and of students in the late 1990s, to later crimes in the Aceh region and what is now Timor-Leste.
"I was encouraged to learn about the conduct of a number of high-level inquiries and the passing of a law in 2000 on the establishment of human rights courts," she stated. "I, however, regret that these steps appear now to have stalled and have so far not led to credible prosecutions of perpetrators. There is a need to strengthen the political will to address serious human rights violations that took place in the past."
Indonesia, she added, has "shown great promise in coming out of a dark period of history and transforming itself into a vibrant democracy."
The UN official has also offered the Government the assistance of her office to further help in promoting human rights and good practices. "We would be glad to help in any way we can in a sustained effort to improve the human rights of all the inhabitants of Indonesia," she said.