UN presses Indonesia on human rights progress report
Hans Nicholas Jong
The Jakarta Post
The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHR Committee) has demanded that the Indonesian government fulfill its promise of submitting a long-overdue report on the state of the country's human rights.
Indonesia should have submitted the report before a July 2014 deadline.
UNHR Committee member and special rapporteur for Indonesia, Cornelis Flinterman, said on Friday that Indonesia must submit the report as a follow-up to a UN review session in Geneva in July 2013.
During the review session, members of the UNHR Committee questioned Indonesia's commitment to resolving human rights abuses, protecting religious minorities and curbing the use of excessive force, after which the UNHR Committee issued a list of recommendations for the government to act upon.
'We adopted 26 concerns and identify four which require immediate attention from the government. Then the government was required to submit a follow-up report [on the four recommendations] by July 2014. Regrettably, the committee has not received any report,' Flinterman told a press conference in Kuningan, South Jakarta, on Friday.
As the Indonesian government had not made any follow-up report on the recommendations, two UNHR Committee members flew to Jakarta earlier this week to talk with members of President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo's administration.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the UNHR Committee, facilitated by Human Rights Watch Group (HRWG) and the Center for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), met officials from some government institutions, including the Law and Human Rights Ministry, the Religious Affairs Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the Home Ministry.
'The experience that we had is that the issues are being discussed in a serious manner and we hope the response from the government will come soon,' Flinterman said.
During the meeting, the Foreign Ministry revealed that the government was caught up in other human rights issues in 2014, which also happened to be an election year, he said.
'That made it impossible for the government to comply [with the report deadline],' Flinterman said.
The four urgent recommendations from the UNHR Committee are the abolition of the death penalty, the repeal of Law No. 1/1965 on defamation of religion, the abolition of female genital mutilation practices and the prosecution of cases involving past human rights violations, including the murder of prominent human rights activist Munir Said Thalib in 2004.
From these four recommendations, only the practice of female genital mutilation had been abolished with the repeal of the Health Ministry's regulation No. 1636/2010 that authorized the performance of female genital mutilation by medical practitioners.
'That's a positive development. But there are also some regressions, such as the death penalty, and
some issues that are stagnant,' UNHR Committee member Victor Manuel Rodrigues-Rescia told The Jakarta Post.
In December 2014, President Jokowi said that he would reject requests for clemency for 64 drug traffickers who are currently on death row, something that Rodrigues-Rescia believed to be wrong as he said drug trafficking should not be considered a crime for which the death penalty could be justified.
As for the stagnant human rights issues, Rodrigues-Rescia cited past human rights cases that the government had failed to act upon so far.
The government also still had a lot of work to do in eradicating discrimination against minorities in the country, he said.
Rodrigues-Rescia gave an example of how fatwa or edicts issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) could sometimes be used as a basis for discrimination.
The latest legal edict issued by the MUI was late last year on homosexual acts, which the fatwa considered a sexual crime.
'Any kind of fatwa that leads to discrimination or persecution is unacceptable. When a religion criticizes or condemns a person because of his or her sexual orientation, then there's discrimination according to human rights,' Rodrigues-Rescia said.