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INDONESIA: Human Rights Council Elections: Indonesia urged to live up to commitments

May 16, 2007

A Statement by the Asian Legal Resource Centre

INDONESIA: Human Rights Council Elections: Indonesia urged to live up to commitments

Indonesia is vying for re-election to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC). The General Assembly (GA) meets on May 17, 2007, to elect 14 of the Council's 47 seats, four of which are from the Asian region. Bahrain, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines are coming to the end of their one-year terms on the Council. India, Indonesia and the Philippines are vying for re-election, while the Asian group is also proposing Qatar to replace Bahrain.

The ALRC is gravely concerned by the fact that the Asian group, amongst others, is presenting a clean slate of candidates, meaning that it is proposing the same number of candidates as there are seats available. The ALRC has released a statement, which can be found here http://www.alrc.net/doc/mainfile.php/alrc_statements/414/, which describes in detail the reasons for which the use of clean slates is a serious threat to the credibility and functioning of the Council.

According to GA resolution 60/251 establishing the HRC, members are expected to uphold "the highest standards in the protection and promotion of human rights and fully cooperate with the Council." ALRC's assessment of Indonesia's human rights record since the country was elected to the HRC on May 9, 2006, contains both positive and negative points. It must be noted that in early 2006, Indonesia acceded to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which are the bedrock instruments of international human rights law. Indonesia has further pledged to ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention Against Torture, which enables independent visits to places of detention. This pledge must be realised in the short term, and if it is implemented in good faith, would represent a positive step forward concerning the eradication of torture.

Similarly, in its pledge (which can be found at http://www.un.org/ga/61/elect/hrc/), Indonesia has undertaken to continue "to implement its second National Plan of Action on Human Rights 2004-2009 consisting of 146 strategies on human rights and entailing: (a) the ratification of international instruments; (b) the harmonization of domestic laws with international norms; (c) education and dissemination; (d) the application of norms and standards; (e) strengthening the institutional framework; and (f) monitoring, evaluating, and reporting on the national human rights situation." The ratification of the new International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is deemed of particular significance, notably due to the country's past massive disappearance problems. Indonesia has made headway under this National Action Plan, and is urged to re-double its efforts in order to ensure that it begins to uphold the highest human rights standards, as is required by any member of the HRC.

The appointment of a new Attorney General and signals that the key cases of Trisakti and Semangi I and II in 1998 (in which student demonstrations were violently repressed resulting in a large number of deaths and injuries), are to be re-examined, in addition to the re-opening of criminal investigations into the death of prominent human rights defender Munir, are also cautiously welcomed. Concrete progress concerning these issues need to be witnessed without delay.

It must, however, be noted that many of the gravest human rights problems that afflict countries in Asia can be witnessed in Indonesia. Torture is still widely practiced during interrogation and investigation. Despite having ratified the Convention Against Torture, on May 14, 2007, a panel of judges sentenced two police officers accused of torturing Mr. Roni Ronaldo Rachditya to death to two-and-a-half years in prison, despite the fact that murder carries a sentence of up to 15 years under Indonesian law. This shows that, even though the country has ratified certain key international instruments, the lack of implementation of their provisions into domestic legislation (in this case there is still no law criminalizing torture, with the officers in question having been sentenced in connection with the offence of ill-treatment) greatly reduces the significance of such ratifications in practice. Indonesia is urged to ensure the rapid harmonization of domestic laws with international norms. At present, in the majority of cases of serious human rights abuses, the perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity.

In order to challenge this impunity, the high-profile case of the killing of human rights defender Munir will act as an indicator concerning the country's ability to protect human rights to acceptable levels, which could justify its membership within the HRC. Promises of justice in this case have been made, but there remain significant and valid doubts as to whether credible actions will follow these words. The government should immediately make public the findings of the Fact Finding Team that was appointed by the President concerning this case, to show its good intentions.

Furthermore, in order to show its commitment to the highest standards of rights protection, Indonesia is urged to immediately halt executions and abolish the death penalty. The ALRC recalls the case of the so-called Poso-3 - Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus Da Silva and Don Marinus Riwu who are believed to be innocent but were executed by firing squad on September 22, 2006 following an unfair trial.

Indonesia must ensure that the military, which remains a major violator of rights in the country, is reigned in, and that members of the military that are accused of criminal violations are tried by civil rather than military courts. The ALRC remains particularly concerned about ongoing grave violations being perpetrated in West Papua and calls for these to be halted with immediate effect if Indonesia is serious about the observance and promotion of human rights.

Indonesia's record of cooperation with the HRC's Special Procedures is very poor, with very few responses having been given to communications sent by these mechanisms. This needs to be immediately rectified if Indonesia is to be considered a credible member of the HRC. While there have been many promises of improvements concerning human rights in Indonesia, including in the pledges made to the international community as part of election campaigns to the HRC, the authorities must ensure that these are implemented in practice. The members of the General Assembly are urged to seek such assurances from Indonesia before casting any votes in favour of the country's re-election.

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About ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at local and national levels throughout Asia.

Posted on 2007-05-16

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