As President Barack Obama prepares to fly to Indonesia November 9th, it is paramount that he concentrates on a few crucial human rights issues. Three main issues should be addressed:
First and foremost, President Obama must demand the immediate release of political prisoners. Some individuals such as Filep Karma have been imprisoned for peacefully protesting by merely waving the Papuan flag. He should do this before arriving in Indonesia to demonstrate our commitment to the right to protest peacefully and the freedom of expression.
Just last year in September, Indonesia passed a law that endorses stoning as a punishment for adultery. Not only is adultery punished but so is sexual orientation if it is not heterosexual, which can receive a punishment of 100 lashes from a cane. President Obama must urge the Indonesian authorities to repeal these laws which use cruel and unusual punishments.
Lastly, freedom of religion is severely restricted. In fact, several laws further restrict freedom of thought and conscience. “Blasphemy” is punishable by up to 5 years of imprisonment and at least 13 people are currently serving time under this law. Christian groups have been attacked by villagers linked to the Islamic Defenders Front, who enjoy impunity for their crimes. Obama should demand that the Indonesian authorities guarantee freedom of religion and protect religious minorities.
The United States needs to stand with human rights in Indonesia and advocate for the protection of peaceful protestors, the repeal of inhumane punishments, and the guarantee of freedom of religion. The best time to do that is when President Obama touches down on Indonesian soil on November 9th.