Thursday, April 20, 2017

Shared Values: VP Mike Pence's Shameless Human Rights Lies in Indonesia

by Nomad

Mike Pence

Proud to Partner

With all that's been going on lately, you might have missed this story. As part of his Asia tour, Vice-president Mike Pence made a stop in tropical Indonesia.
There, he gave praise to what he described as the world's most populous Muslim nation's Indonesia's democracy and moderate form of Islam. It has been held up- as Turkey once was- as the champion of "a more tolerant and moderate Islam."

Agreeing to boost cooperation between the two nations to fight terrorist extremism, Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo welcomed Pence.
The vice president, according to the AP story, was there to reinforce traditional U.S. alliances at a time when Donald Trump's presidency has raised questions about the strength of the U.S. commitment to the region.

Pence said:
"As the second- and third-largest democracies in the world, our two countries share many common values including freedom, the rule of law, human rights and religious diversity. The United States is proud to partner with Indonesia. It promotes and protects these values."
Every American- whatever his politics- has a right to question Pence about which shared values he might be referring to. When you take a close look to the reports of independent human right organizations, Pence's claims look much worse than the typical hyperbolical gloss of honey-coated diplomacy.

It is, in fact, the worst kind of misrepresentation. It is also a shame for any nation that has once held itself as a champion and defender of human rights around the world.

Along with other groups, Amnesty International has, for example, monitored the nation's record on rights abuses and none of the things Pence claims appear to have any basis at all.
Broad and vaguely worded laws were used to arbitrarily restrict the rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association. Despite the authorities’ commitments to resolve past cases of human rights violations, millions of victims and their families were still denied truth, justice and reparation. There were reports of human rights violations by security forces, including unlawful killings and the use of excessive or unnecessary force. At least 38 prisoners of conscience remained in detention. Four people were executed.
In its own 2016 report, Human Rights Watch noted a series of serious problems, such as attacks on religious minorities, the enacting of new discriminatory regulations for women and girls (on top of the existing ones), the failure to implement laws protecting citizens with disabilities, and a lack of legal protections for refugees and migrants.
Those are only the highlights- or, should I say, lowlights. Let's look at these in a bit more detail. 

Indonesia: Violence Against Religious Minorities

HRW research shows a very worrying uptick in religious intolerance. The rights of religious minorities are under constant threat.
"These incidents are occurring," says Phelim Kine, Deputy Asia Director for HRW, "with alarming frequency on a weekly basis, sometimes even on a daily basis."

In 2016, HRW reported that acts of religious intolerance and violations of religious freedom had actually increased in Indonesia
The Setara Institute, a Jakarta-based organization that monitors religious freedom, reported an increase in acts of religious intolerance from 236 in 2015 to 270 in 2016, while religious freedom violations rose from 197 to 208.
More than half the incidents of religious intolerance – 140 – implicate government entities, including local government administrations and police.

Morality Police Target Women in Indonesia

Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency back in 2013 reported on the implementation of Sharia law in the Indonesian province of Aceh. This allows so-called squads of uniformed morality police to enforce strict Islamic laws. 

Criminals include women who neglect to cover their hair, women who refuse to sit side-saddle on motorbikes, any show of affection in public and other gender-specific violations.
Earlier this year, The New York Times noted:
In Aceh, women are required to dress modestly, alcohol is prohibited, and numerous offenses — from adultery to homosexuality to selling alcohol — are punishable by public whipping.

..Shariah police officers roam the province, raiding everything from hotel rooms to beaches in a hunt for immoral activity.
Women's groups claim that the laws are simply a manifestation of male-domination and a means of oppression.

The BBC in 2014 had a similar report about Sharia law in the same region of Indonesia. The official interviewed explained:
"We want the Koran to become a positive force in people's lives. We want religious law to govern our country."

Let's pause for a few seconds and put this into perspective. 
Pence's mention of shared values between the US and Indonesia- particularly, in the face of its implementation of Sharia law really ought to have some voters in his home state awfully worried.

Last December, Republicans in Indiana proposed Senate Bill 16, which was designed to keep the principles of Sharia law from becoming one of America's "common" values.

Children Labor in Indonesia's Tobacco Fields: Human Rights Watch

Human Rights organizations reported on the risks children faced in Indonesia due to the absence of enforced child labor labors in that country. There are laws prohibiting children working until the age of 15.
However, these regulations are not enforced, with the authorities turning a blind eye to the practice. Take a look at this short news report.

LGBT Indonesians Threatened by Government Officials

Human Right Watch noted the threats that LGBT citizens faced in Indonesia. Those threats came, not merely from hate groups or religious extremists, but from government officials themselves.
The Indonesian government stoked an unprecedented attack on the security and rights of sexual and gender minorities in early 2016. The government campaign included hateful rhetoric, discriminatory edicts, and the use of force to repress peaceful assembly.

Indonesia: End Shackling of People With Disabilities

Last year HRW reported on the pitiful conditions of the mentally-disabled in Indonesia. 
People with psychosocial disabilities (mental health conditions) in Indonesia are shackled or forced into institutions where they often face physical and sexual violence, involuntary treatment including electroshock therapy, seclusion, restraint and forced contraception.
In the video below, Human Rights Watch examined how people with psychosocial disabilities often end up chained or locked up in overcrowded and unsanitary institutions, without their consent, due to stigma and the absence of adequate community-based support services, including mental health.
Are these the shared values that Pence cited?

Keep in mind, this isn't the complete list of human rights problems that exist in this nation.
And yet, America's vice president can casually claim that the two nations "share many common values" and that the US is "proud to partner" with Indonesia.

Let's pray he was not serious. Do we really want a vice-president (and very possibly the next president) to profess common ground with a human rights record like that?

No need to become too greatly stressed out about it. The same AP story noted that there could be a more logical reason for all this back patting.
Trump's company, the Trump Organization, is active in Indonesia with plans to manage luxury resorts being built near the capital Jakarta and on the tourist island of Bali.
Trump's Indonesian business partner, billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo, is an aspiring politician who has said he might run for president in 2019.
Like any other traveling salesman, Mike Pence has laid the groundwork for a huge, really huge business deal for his boss.