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Known Violator of Human Rights Elected as Indonesia’s President

March 13, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

Indonesia (International Christian Concern) — Despite official results being delayed until March, Prabowo Subianto has claimed victory in the February presidential election in Indonesia. Expecting confirmation in the coming weeks, Prabowo holds nearly 59% of the votes counted, with few remaining. 

Prabowo formerly served as Indonesia’s defense minister and is the son-in-law of former dictator Suharto. A special commander under Suharto’s regime, Prabowo was dismissed from the military because of allegations of involvement in the kidnapping and torturing of pro-democracy activists in 1998. The kidnapping resulted in the disappearance of 20 activists, 13 of whom are still missing. 

 As a result of these violations, the U.S. banned Prabowo from entering the U.S. However, both Trump and Biden have invited Prabowo to visit Washington in his position as defense minister since 2020. The new president has not publicly confirmed his religion, but many close to him describe his religion as non-pious Muslim. Of the 277.3 million people in Indonesia, 87.2% identify as Muslim. The country also boasts a 7% Protestant and 2.9% Roman Catholic population. 

The official constitution guarantees freedom of religion but also states that “citizens must accept restriction established by law to protect the rights of others and to satisfy ‘just demands based upon considerations of morality, religious values, security, and public order in a democratic society,’” according to the U.S. International Religious Freedom Report of 2022. 

Indonesia upholds blasphemy laws, arresting several Christians in 2022 alone, including Christian YouTuber Muhammad Kace, who published multiple videos criticizing Islam following his conversion to Christianity. The Indonesian government sentenced Kace to 10 years in prison for blasphemy and hate speech. 

The safety and security of Christians in Indonesia have remained tenuous over the past several years, with many limitations in place for what Christians are allowed to do. Due to his previous engagements in human rights violations, many international actors remain reluctant to congratulate Prabowo on his position. 

Executive director of Indonesian human rights group Imparsial, Gufron Mabruri, said, “Prabowo’s election creates not only a bad precedent in the effort to prosecute state crimes committed by the previous government. It will also weaken enforcement of human rights in the future.” 

We pray that the leadership of Prabowo will be committed to human rights and freedom of religion. We pray that the previous human rights violations will not indicate a precedent as to the rule of Prabowo and his administration. We pray that the United States will not hesitate to remark on any human rights violations that may occur or continue in the coming presidency. 


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