Contenders asked to outline views on human rights

The New York-based international NGO, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has distributed questionnaires to all contenders in Indonesia’s presidential election, slated for July 9, in its attempt to highlight the candidates’ commitment to mending the nation’s human rights record.  
HRW’s Andreas Harsono told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that the presidential hopefuls were asked to outline their views regarding religious minorities, women’s rights, judicial reform, asylum seekers and the security and political situation in Papua.
“We want to help provide comprehensive information for eligible voters. They must know who they are voting for to get a picture of what the country will look like when one of the candidates is elected president,” Andreas said.
“This survey doesn’t aim to judge any of those who have been officially nominated or those who will be potentially nominated. We just forwarded them the questions and will announce the answers to the public in June. It’s up to eligible voters to make the decision [in the presidential election],” he added.
HRW’s move came after the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) refused to assess the human rights records of presidential hopefuls, saying it was not mandated to do so.
According to Andreas, HRW has distributed a questionnaire to Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) presidential candidate and Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, the Golkar Party presidential candidate Aburizal Bakrie, the Gerindra Party’s presidential candiate Prabowo Subianto, the Hanura Party’s presidential candidate Wiranto and the so-called “king of dangdut” Rhoma Irama, who is rumored to be a potential candidate representing the National Awakening Party (PKB).
HRW has distributed a similar questionnaire to political parties that have yet to make a decision on their presidential nomination, such as the Democratic Party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the United Development Party (PPP) and the National Mandate Party (PAN).
In terms of religious freedom, the questionnaire asks what the presidential hopefuls will do to protect religious minorities who have suffered intimidation for years. It specifically highlights candidates’ commitment to improving the situation in areas where religious violence is rampant, such as Aceh, Banten, East Java, West Java and West Sumatra.  
HRW also asks hopefuls to elaborate on their plans, if elected president, to uphold human rights in relation to several other issues, such as whether they will comply with the recommendation by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to allow foreign journalists to enter Papua and whether to release political prisoners in the country’s resource-rich province.
In the UN’s quadrennial Universal Periodic Review in May 2012, the UNHRC requested Indonesia to allow foreign journalists into Papua and also release Papuan political detainees, including Filep Karma, who was arrested for helping to raise a flag representing the Papuan separatist movement in December 2004.
During the review session in 2012, the UNHRC also requested the Indonesian government to amend or revoke laws and regulations that banned religious freedom, including the 1965 Blasphemy Law, the 1969 and 2006 ministerial decrees on the construction of places of worship and the 2008 joint ministerial decree on the Ahmadiyah.
HRW expects to receive responses between May 16 and early June and publish them a month before the presidential election.
“Indonesia’s next president will inherit serious human rights problems requiring leadership and commitment,” Phelim Kine, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said in a statement.
“Indonesian voters should insist that presidential candidates make explicit their plans to promote and strengthen human rights in the country.”