The Jakarta Post
Indonesia has successfully retained its seat on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in an election held at the world body's headquarters in New York.
The news comes as many are hoping newly inaugurated President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo will take concrete steps to resolve past human rights violence.
'Indonesia's reelection is a special present for President Jokowi on his second day in office,' Indonesia's permanent representative to the UN, Desra Percaya, said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Indonesia, which was elected for the fourth time, was among five Asian countries that vied for UNHRC seats for the 2015-2017 period alongside Thailand, India, Bangladesh and Qatar.
However, with only four Asian seats available, junta-ruled Thailand lost its bid as it received votes from only 136 of the UN's 193 member states, the least among the five. India won 162 votes, followed by Indonesia ( 152 ), Bangladesh ( 149 ) and Qatar ( 142 ).
Eleven other countries were also elected as council members. They were Albania and Latvia representing Eastern Europe; the Netherlands and Portugal (Western Europe); Botswana, Congo, Ghana and Nigeria (Africa), as well as Paraguay, Bolivia and El Salvador (Latin America and the Caribbean).
The council's outgoing members are Austria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Kuwait, Peru, the Philippines and Romania.
'Indonesia's reelection is also a real display of trust by the international community in Indonesia's human rights protection and promotion, strengthening democracy consolidation, as well as a form of optimism in our new government,' Desra said.
Indonesia was among the council's first members after it was established in 2006. It was reelected again in 2007 and 2011.
Human rights activists, however, criticized Indonesia's constant membership on the council, saying it had failed to translate into true efforts back home, given its 'poor' human rights records.
Apart from numerous prolonged and unresolved past abuses, growing violence and discrimination against minorities, corruption and the mistreatment of refugees continued to capture concern.
'It was not Indonesia's first election so that's not very special actually,' Choirul Anam, the deputy executive director of the Human Rights Working Group, said.
Under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's leadership, Indonesia seemed to 'merely pursue normative recognition,' he said.
'If Jokowi wants to make it special, the reelection should boost his commitment to human rights so Indonesia's role in the international arena can truly reflect domestic progress. That way, Jokowi can bring Indonesia to a higher level in terms of human rights than it was under Yudhoyono,' Anam said.
Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the UNHRC addresses human rights violations and makes recommendations. It discusses thematic human rights issues, reviews countries' rights records and acts on complaints.
The council currently has 47 member states elected to a 3-year term and not eligible for re-election after two consecutive terms.
The seats are distributed as follows: 13 seats for African states, 13 for Asia, 8 for Latin America and the Caribbean, 7 for Western Europe and other states, and 6 for Eastern Europe. One of its routine mechanisms is the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which regularly examines the human rights performance of UN member states without exception.
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