Jakarta. President Joko Widodo, already under increasingly heavy fire over the imminent execution of 11 drug convicts, on Wednesday was presented with a lengthy to-do list courtesy of Amnesty International.
The human rights organization in its Annual Report for 2014 noted a host of violations, ranging from torture and ill-treatment by the nation's security forces to imprisonment of political activists and attacks against religious minorities.
Joko assumed the presidency in October last year, taking over from Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
In the section on Indonesia, Amnesty mentioned a number of violent incidents involving members of the Indonesian police and security forces, including the shooting of demonstrators in Papua's Paniai district in December that left at least four young men dead.
Regarding the freedom of expression, Amnesty said that peaceful political activists continued to be arrested and detained, "particularly in areas with a history of pro-independence movements such as Papua and Maluku." The group mentioned also that at least nine people "remained detained or imprisoned under blasphemy laws solely for their religious views or the manifestation of their beliefs, or for the lawful exercise of their right to freedom of expression."
The organization specifically mentioned continued harassment of members of the Ahmadiyah and Shiite minority groups in Indonesia.
Amnesty in its report also raised the issue of impunity for past human rights abuses, which Joko had pledged to tackle as part of his campaign promises. However, according to the NGO, "there was a lack of progress in ensuring truth, justice and reparations for victims of past human rights violations."
Aceh and some of its Shariah-inspired laws came in for criticism under the subheading "Cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment," with the activists mentioning that at least 76 people were caned in the province throughout the year.
Amnesty also called on the House of Representatives to pass the Domestic Worker Protection Bill and on the government to "pass specific legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation," among other issues.
'Muzzle on free speech'
With regards to the Asia-Pacific region, Amnesty is particularly worried about the freedom of speech in countries like China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos, rising religious intolerance and the refugee crisis that is mainly due to instability in Afghanistan and the persecution Rohingya people in Myanmar.
"There’s a muzzle on free speech across the Asia-Pacific region," Richard Bennett, Amnesty's director for the region, said in a press release. "Speaking out is becoming a crime in too many countries, leaving media and civil society less space to operate.”
“Over the past year, we saw governments use draconian security laws to suppress civil society, locking up and punishing critical voices on the pretext of ‘national security.’ States are growing increasingly fearful of the power of new technology and are suppressing the use of online tools," Bennett said.
On a global scale, Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty said “2014 was a catastrophic year for millions caught up in violence."
"The global response to conflict and abuses by states and armed groups has been shameful and ineffective. As people suffered an escalation in barbarous attacks and repression, the international community has been found wanting,” Shetty said in a press release.