Thursday, 7 April 2011

Turkey and Indonesia: "Shining examples of Islamic democracies"?

Turkish president Abdullah Gul, honoured with a doctorate at the University of Indonesia, has praised his own country and Indonesia in a speech in Jakarta:

Turkey and Indonesia are shining examples of Islamic democracies, and offer hope to nations in the Middle East and North Africa seeking to follow the same path.

“It is not only possible, but also desirable, to achieve a functioning democracy,” Gul said on Wednesday at the University of Indonesia, which conferred him with an honorary doctorate in political science.

“By just being us, we serve as a catalyst for reform,” he told cabinet ministers, professors and students in Depok.

Gul said the world’s two leading moderate Muslim-majority nations had a unique role to play in ushering in change as unrest swept the Middle East and Libya.

Read the entire article here.

Turkey and Indonesia may have made some progress towards democracy, but are they "shining examples" of democracy?:

Human Rights Watch
World Report 2011: Indonesia

Over the past 12 years Indonesia has made great strides in becoming a stable, democratic country with a strong civil society and independent media. However, serious human rights concerns remain. While senior officials pay lip service to protecting human rights, they seem unwilling to take the steps necessary to ensure compliance by the security forces with international human rights and punishment for those responsible for abuses.

New allegations of security force involvement in torture emerged in 2010. But the military consistently shields its officers from investigations and the government makes little effort to hold them accountable. The government has also done too little to curb discrimination against and attacks on religious, sexual, and ethnic minorities.

While Indonesia today has a vibrant media, authorities continue to invoke harsh laws criminalizing those who raise controversial issues, chilling peaceful expression. Indonesia has imprisoned more than 100 activists from the Moluccas and Papua for "rebellion" for peacefully voicing political views, holding demonstrations, and raising separatist flags.
In August Indonesian police arrested 21 individuals for planning to float pro-independence flags attached to balloons during a visit to the Moluccas by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Police subjected them to severe beatings that lasted for days including with wooden sticks and bars and forced them to hold painful stress positions. In September Papuan activist Yusuf Sapakoly, convicted of "rebellion" in 2007 for assisting activists who displayed a pro-independence flag, died of kidney failure after prison authorities denied him medical treatment. In July, after 10 months of delay, prison authorities in Papua permitted political prisoner Filep Karma to travel to Jakarta for necessary surgery.
Indonesia's criminal libel, slander, and "insult" laws prohibit deliberately "insulting" a public official and intentionally publicizing statements that harm another person's reputation, often even if those statements are true. In early 2010 Tukijo, a farmer from Yogyakarta, was sentenced to six months' probation and a three-month suspended prison sentence for criminal defamation after he asked a local official to disclose the results of a land assessment.

Read the entire piece here.

Human Rights Watch
World Report 2011: Turkey

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government's constitutional amendments open the way for further reforms to strengthen human rights, Human Rights Watch said. But the government has failed to address serious ongoing concerns. These include unjustified prosecutions for alleged speech crimes, the arbitrary use of terrorism laws, unnecessarily prolonged pretrial detention, a clampdown on the legal pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), and police violence against demonstrators.
The government's partial revision of the constitution, approved by national referendum in September 2010, paves the way for creating an ombudsperson, limits the role of military courts, and gives individuals the right to petition the constitutional court to challenge the constitutionality of laws. It also ends immunity from prosecution for the leaders of the September 12, 1980 military coup and public officials who committed human rights abuses in its wake, among other reforms.
Despite a climate of increasingly open debate, the government prosecuted and convicted people during 2010 for nonviolent speeches, writings, and participating in demonstrations, Human Rights Watch said.  Journalists and editors are frequent targets for prosecution, with some facing scores of ongoing legal proceedings in 2010.
"The authorities in Turkey see some speech as a threat to be countered rather than a right to be upheld," Ward said. "A confident Turkey has nothing to fear from free expression."
Another problem during 2010 was ill-treatment by the police, particularly during street stops, demonstrations, and arrests.  The use of firearms by the police and the gendarmerie, particularly against unarmed suspects, was also a matter of concern, Human Rights Watch said. There was no progress on tightening rules governing use of force.

Read the entire article here.

Another recent report from Turkey:

The arrest of nine journalists and writers on March 3, 2011, in the absence of clear reasonable cause, will have a chilling effect on free speech, Human Rights Watch said. The nine were accused of links to the alleged "Ergenekon" coup plots against the Turkish government.

Those arrested include Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, two prominent journalists known for critical reporting on the Turkish criminal justice system and police. Şık is co-author of a book about the investigations and trials in the Ergenekon case - after the alleged name given to their organization by the conspirators. He had been working on a book about the police. Şener had written a book on the murder of Hrant Dink, a renowned journalist and human rights defender, and its investigation.

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