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Indonesia bound to protect Islamic sect under rights treaty: HRW

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] Tuesday renewed its call for Indonesia to protect freedom of religion when it stated that the Indonesian government should reverse a decree [HRW reports] issued Monday that provides for the prosecution of members of a controversial Islamic sect who continue to spread the religion. Under the decree, Ahmadiyah Muslims face up to five years in prison if they continue to promote their beliefs, which are considered heretical by many mainstream Islamic groups. Noting that Indonesia ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [full text] in February 2006, HRW asked the government to recognize its obligations under the agreement and to protect the group from a recent surge of violence perpetrated by militant orthodox Muslims. More than 60 Indonesians have been injured in recent attacks on Ahmadiyah Muslims. BBC News has more.

Ahmadiyah Muslims believe that Mohammad was not the final prophet, and the sect has been prohibited from practicing its religion in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Violence against the group has escalated following a recommendation by an Indonesian government council that the group be banned [DPA report] because its beliefs deviate from the Koran. Also on Tuesday, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla explained [Reuters report] that Ahmadiyah Muslims are still free to worship in mosques and their own homes so long as they do not try to convert other Muslims. Kalla added that the decree was in line with Indonesia's constitution and denied that the government had failed to protect members of the Ahmadiyah sect at a rally [AFP report] against the impending mandate last week in Jakarta that left dozens of protesters injured following an attack by the Islamic Defender Front, a radical Islamic group.

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