Indonesia must protect Shi’a villagers from further attacks

Amnesty International has urged the Indonesian authorities to provide protection for hundreds of Shi’a Muslims forced to return to their village in East Java yesterday after an anti-Shi’a mob attack had driven them away.Local government authorities forced some 335 displaced Shi’a villagers, including at least 107 children, onto trucks the evening of 12 January and took them back to the village of Nangkrenang, which was ransacked late last year.  The displaced villagers had refused to return to their homes until they received adequate police protection, and until their attackers were brought to justice.  “We have concerns about conditions in their village  – in many cases, they do not even have homes anymore,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.   “There also are serious questions about the willingness of the police to protect these people from more sectarian attacks or to hold the perpetrators accountable.” On 29 December 2011, houses, a boarding school and a place of worship belonging to the Shi’a community in Nangkrenang village, Sampang, Madura Island, were attacked and burned by a mob of around 500 people, some of whom were carrying sharp weapons.  Although security forces knew the timing of the attack in advance, instead of taking steps to prevent it or protect the villagers, they stood by filming on their mobile phones or watching the attacks. The only person arrested for the attack has since been released. “This was not even the first time these villagers have been attacked,” said Sam Zarifi.  “Forcing them to return to an unsafe place, with no clear protection or relocation alternatives offered, violates internationally agreed principles on the rights of people who have been internally displaced.”After the latest attack, the villagers were evacuated to a temporary shelter in a sports complex in Sampang, which reportedly lacked adequate clean water and sanitation. The Shi’a community on Madura Island have previously faced intimidation and attacks in 2006 and 2011.  They have also been reportedly pressured by anti-Shi’a groups to convert to Indonesia’s majority religion, Sunni Islam. Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of intimidation and violence against religious minorities in Indonesia by radical Islamist groups.  For example, Ahmadiyya communities have been displaced by attacks and arson, and in most cases the perpetrators have gone unpunished.  The right to freedom of religion or belief is guaranteed in Article 18(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Indonesia is a state party.  Under the ICCPR Indonesia must ensure the right to life, security and freedom from torture and other ill-treatment.  Such protection must be provided without discrimination, including on the basis of religion.