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Interpretations of Article 156a of the Indonesian Criminal Code on Blasphemy and Religious Defamation (A Legal and Human Rights Analysis)

Cover of the report
Thursday, November 29, 2018

Executive Summary:

While in many countries blasphemy has either been removed from the criminal codes or is now rarely prosecuted, the situation in Indonesia is different. Not only have blasphemy prosecutions increased over the past decades but such cases have also become increasingly politicized. With the growth of religious intolerance expressed through political parties, religious organizations, and public demonstrations, the study shows how such extraneous pressures have had an impact upon prosecutions and verdicts. The issue of whether blasphemy should be criminalized at all is a political issue beyond the scope of this research, which focuses on the interpretation and application of the existing law.

The primary purpose of this study, however, is to provide a systematic legal analysis that reveals serious issues in the past and current application of the Indonesian blasphemy law. In particular, it demonstrates the inconsistent interpretation and application of the relevant statutes as well as the failure of many of the court judgments to accurately analyze and correctly apply the elements of the offense required for conviction. This report compels our attention because its balanced and objective analysis of judicial practice in blasphemy prosecutions reveals serious issues of justice, human rights, and the rule of law that must be addressed. The report points the way forward to how these challenges should be met in a manner appropriate to a democratic society where all citizens enjoy equal rights and dignity before the law.

Researchers: Arsil, Dian Rositawati, Muhammad Tanziel Aziezi, Nur Syarifah, Zainal Abidin