Hundreds of Shiites who have been forced to return to their village in East Java after being evicted from their homes in Madura by an anti-Shiite mob. (ANTARA/Saiful Bahri)

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London (ANTARA News) - Amnesty International has urged the Indonesian government to provide protection for hundreds of Shiites who have been forced to return to their village in East Java after being evicted from their homes in Madura by an anti-Shiite mob.

In a statement to ANTARA News in London on Saturday, Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International`s Asia Pacific director, said the local government herded about 335 Shiite evacuees including at least 107 children onto a truck on Thursday and transported them to Nangkrenang which was also looted late last year.

"We are concerned about the conditions in their village - some of them even no longer have a home," Sam said.

The Shiite evacuees had refused to return to their homes

before unless the police gave them adequate protection and the people who had attacked them were brought to justice.

There were also serious questions about the police`s preparedness to protect the Shiite community from future religiously-motivated attacks or to act against the attackers, he said.

Last December 29, a madrasah school , a house of worship and a residence of the Shiite community at Nangkrenang, Sampang, Madura island, were attacked and torched by a crowd off about 500 people some oof whom carried sharp weapons.

Although one day before the action, local securities already knew it would happen they did not take any measures to prevent it or protect the Shiite community and only took pictures of the riot with the cameras on their cellphones or just watched. The only person arrested by the police over the happening was later set free.

"This was not the fist time the Shiite community was attacked," Sam said.

"Forcing them to return to an unsafe place without proper protection or the offering an alternative relocation site violates the principles the international community has agreed on with regard to the rights of internal evacuees," Sam said.

After the latest attack, Shiite

community members were evacuated to temporary shelter in a sports building in Sampang which reportedly lacked a sufficient clean water source and adequate sanitation facilities.

The Shiite community in Madura experienced acts of intimidation and attacks before in 2006 and 2011. They were also reported to have been pressured by anti-Shiite elements to convert to the faith of the majority of Indonesian Muslims, namely the Sunni version of Islam.

Sam said Amnesty International had documented many cases of intimidation and violence against religious minorities in Indonesia by radical Islamic groups.

Among them were instances in which Ahmadiyah community members had to evacuate after their homes were attacked and burned down. In most of the cases, the perpetrators were not penalized.

Sam pointed out religious freedom or the right to embrace a faith of one`s own choosing was guaranteed in Article 18 (1) of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Indonesia was also a party.

Under the ICCPR, Indonesia must guarantee its people`s right to life, security and freedom from torture and other forms of maltreatment . The protection must be given indiscriminately, or regardless of among other things, the religion of the people concerned, Sam said.
(T.ZG/HAJM/O001)

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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