A group of UN human rights experts joined Thursday to urge Indonesia to amend [press release] a Bill on Mass Organizations [text, PDF, in Indonesian] that is currently being considered by the legislature. The proposed legislation [UN News Centre report] would require organizations to register with the Ministry of Home Affairs and affirm that they believe in only one God and that they are not affiliated with a specific political party. The bill would also impose restrictions on the nature of discourse in which the groups can engage. The UN experts fear that if the bill is left unchanged it will inhibit freedom of assembly, speech and religion and ultimately undermine the nation's push toward democratization. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders [official website] Margaret Sekaggya expressed her concern that "certain provisions in the bill will hamper the legitimate human rights work of civil society in the country, in particular of foreign societal organizations." The bill is scheduled for a vote next week.
Indonesia has previously faced international criticism for undermining human rights. In November the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Indonesia [JURIST report] to end discrimination. In July an Indonesian cleric was imprisoned for violating [JURIST report] the nation's blasphemy law. The international community criticized [JURIST report] Indonesia last March for the arrest of peaceful demonstrators. In January 2011 three soldiers were sentenced [JURIST report] for their role in making a video showing the torture of detainees. In December 2010 rights groups advocated [JURIST report] for the repeal of two Sharia laws which imposed strict Islamic dress in public and prohibited unmarried men and women from being alone together.