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UN to take NGO reports on RI human rights seriously

July 11, 2013

Yohanna Ririhena, The Jakarta Post, Geneva | World | Thu, July 11 2013, 12:48 PM

Members of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) said they
would treat reports of Indonesia’s human rights record, presented by
NGOs, as essential input in considering points of recommendation to be
made at the end of an upcoming session by the committee.

UNHRC head Sir Nigel Rodley underlined the significance of the NGO
reports. “All the reports that we get from civil society are very
important to us, since government reports inevitably tend to portray
things in the best possible light,” Rodley told The Jakarta Post.

Indonesia’s delegation, which comprises 22 government officials,
police and military officers and is led by the Law and Human Rights’
director general of human rights, Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, is
scheduled to present an initial report on the state of civil and
political rights in the country at UN headquarters in Geneva on
Wednesday and Thursday.

It will be the first Indonesian report examined by the committee,
eight years after the country ratified the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The committee will also hold
formal and informal sessions with the NGOs.

Rodley underscored the fact that the 18 members of the committee
needed to hear from different parties to gain more insight. “There is
no way we can be experts on all the countries that are parties to the
covenant. So, we are highly dependent on civil society to draw our
attention to what seem to be the key issues in relation to compliance
to the covenant,” he said.

After all the hearings, the committee will identify three to four
recommendations based on specific urgency and the possibility of being
implemented within a one-year period. These recommendations, which
will clearly be identified in a paragraph at the end of the concluding
observations, are expected to be issued at the end of July.

Representatives of the NGOs will emphasize rights violations during an
informal session or the second meeting with the experts on Wednesday.

Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and
Victims of Violence (Kontras), said the government’s written report
focused more on legal reform, but did not elaborate on the real
situation concerning a number of human rights violations in the
country.

Indria Fernida of UK-based Tapol, an NGO that works on behalf of
political prisoners, stressed the restrictions on freedom of opinion
and expression in Papua and West Papua.

She said the evidence on the ground suggested that measures taken to
guarantee freedom of expression in Papua and West Papua had been
ineffective. “Moreover, violations of the right to freedom of
expression have intensified since 2013,” she said.

Representatives from the NGOs also plan to highlight the newly
endorsed and controversial Mass Organization Law, which it is feared
will give the government greater control over public activities, such
as the power to disband an organization deemed a threat to the state.

“The new law clearly violates freedom of association. It also
stipulates [the creation of] a new institution with an unclear mandate
to function as a ‘clearing house’, which could limit how NGOs
operate,” Human Rights Working Group executive director Rafendi Djamin
said.

The ICCPR, a multilateral treaty adopted by the UN General Assembly in
1966 and entered into force on March 23, 1976, obliges all parties to
respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the
right to life, freedom of religion, speech and assembly as well as
electoral rights and the rights to due process and a fair trial.

Paul Barber

Coordinator, TAPOL

+44 (0)1420 80153 or +44 (0) 774 730 1739

www.tapol.org

Promoting human rights, peace and democracy in Indonesia

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