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Jakarta Post

UN to take NGO reports on RI human rights seriously

  • Yohanna Ririhena

Posted: 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. '€œAll 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. '€œThere 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. '€œMoreover, 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.

'€œThe 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.

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