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Widodo receives rights abuse messages by sackful

Thousands of letters are sent to Indonesia's president calling on him to address violations and grievances

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Widodo receives rights abuse messages by sackful

Amnesty International Indonesia activists walk to the Cabinet Secretariat in Jakarta to submit thousands of letters and postcards to the president as they mark International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10. (Photo supplied)

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Thousands of human rights abuse victims and people from across Indonesia have called on President Joko Widodo to use his last term in office to address unresolved rights violations.

More than 5,000 letters and postcards calling for action, collected by Amnesty International Indonesia from Sept. 17 to Dec. 7, were delivered to the presidential palace on Dec. 10.

The delivery was made at the end of a rally to mark International Human Rights Day.

Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid said most letters urged the government to settle rights abuses through the courts “so victims get justice and people [arbitrarily] accused of violating laws are freed.”

Several demanded the elimination of sexual violence, an end to alleged repression in Papua and the revocation of discriminative regulations based on religion. Others wanted forced disappearance cases cleared up and an end to the death penalty.

“Amnesty hopes the government will welcome these people’s calls as a starting point to protect and respect human rights,” Hamid told ucanews, adding that "the government should respond to them with concrete action."

He said for many years Amnesty International has seen a significant impact from letter-writing campaigns in attracting government attention.

He cited the case of Baiq Nuril Maknun, a woman convicted of defaming her sexual abuser on social media but who was granted a pardon this year by Widodo.

Nuril’s pardon followed a public outcry in which thousands signed petitions and letters initiated by rights groups and communities urging she be freed.

Hamid said Amnesty International was also monitoring cases in which the government was attempting to prosecute human rights defenders.  

This included the case of Christian activists Robertus Robet and Veronica Koman, both of whom were forced to flee to Australia earlier this year.

Robet was arrested in March and accused of insulting the military in a speech , while Koman was accused of stoking mass riots in Papua in August and September.

Hamid said the letters delivered to the palace included a call to drop charges against both Robet and Koman.

Fadlansyah Lubis, a Cabinet Secretariat official who accepted the letters, said the government welcomed opinions from the public and rights groups.

"We will study the letters first and convey their message to the president,” he said. “The president is committed to upholding human rights." 

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