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Minorities told to defend their rights

Legal adviser tells religious leaders to use the courts

Participants at the training program Participants at the training program
  • Windy Subanto, Bukittinggi
  • Indonesia
  • February 8, 2011
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The director of a legal aid institute in Indonesia’s West Sumatra has urged local religious leaders and activists to bring any cases of discrimination to court so that human rights can be upheld.

According to Vino Oktavia, so far discrimination cases, particularly those involving minority groups, have only become “a discussion” in society.

“The faithful, whose freedom of religion is violated or discriminated against, can bring a case to court. If a regulation is not right, a judicial review is allowed,” he told Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim and Protestant leaders as well as activists attending a training program on religious freedom organized by the institute in Bukittinggi.

The Muslim layman pointed out that discrimination against minority groups violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the 1945 constitution.

He lamented the Indonesian government’s failure to implement freedom of religion. “In many cases, the government - in this case [meaning the] police - seemed to let such violations happen,” he said.

He added that the government only recognized six religions - Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Hindu, Islam and Protestantism - and ignored beliefs followed by tribal people. “Those who do not adhere to one of these religions cannot have an identity card. It means they lose their civil and political rights,” he continued.

Offering legal aid to those facing discrimination, he maintained that such legal aid “is a fight for human rights.”

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