The police have charged a mentally ill woman who brought a dog to a mosque in Bogor with blasphemy. (Antara Photo/Feny Selly)

Problematic Blasphemy Law Threatens Vulnerable Groups: Setara


JULY 04, 2019

Jakarta. The police's decision to throw blasphemy charges against a mentally ill woman who brought a dog to a mosque in Bogor is merely the latest example of the authorities using a problematic law to appease the religious majority, according to political think tank Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace. 

A video showing the woman bringing a dog into the mosque has gone viral on social media, triggering fiery comments from those who seem to seek to use the incident to flame sectarian animosity. 

The police moved quickly to detain the woman and later found medical records showing she was suffering from a mental disorder. 

And yet, Bogor Police proceeded to charge the woman with blasphemy, saying it is up to the court to dismiss the case if the woman is proven to be suffering from mental illness.

But according to Setara, the police should not have slapped blasphemy charges on the woman in the first place.

"[Legally,] there was no intention behind the wrongdoing [mens rea], which normally should be the main base for a conviction," Setara research director Halili said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Halili said the case has shown once again that the problematic blasphemy law has been reduced to an "instrument of favoritism" to please Indonesia's religious majority.   

According to Halili, the police are more influenced by pressure from religious groups than concerned with the objective enforcement of justice and the due process of the law.

"The Bogor Police's press conference where they announced the blasphemy charges was even attended by the local branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council," he said.

Halili said the substance of the blasphemy article in the Indonesian criminal law is also problematic since it does not guarantee legal certainty (lex certa). Applying the article in this case will not bring justice to the woman or the community in general.

"Our recommendation is that the police put out a moratorium on the application of this [blasphemy] article," Halili said. 

"The current article has too much potential to create injustice, especially for vulnerable groups and religious minorities," he said.