Subject: UN not impressed with Indonesia's rights record

The Jakarta Post November 26, 2001

UN not impressed with Indonesia's rights record

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The United Nations Committee against Torture has given a virtual thumbs-down to an Indonesian report on its compliance with internationally accepted standards, calling on Jakarta to make better efforts to prevent future abuses and to punish past perpetrators. (see Conclusions and Recommendations of the Committee against Torture: Indonesia)

The committee specifically called for the prosecution of people responsible for the violence that took place in East Timor between January and October 1999, the last months of Jakarta's control of the territory.

It urged Indonesia to cooperate fully with the United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET), especially in providing assistance with investigations and court proceedings.

The committee, during its annual meeting in Geneva, issued its conclusions and recommendations on Indonesia after reviewing a report submitted by the Indonesian government, according to the United Nations Human Rights Commission on Friday.

As one of the 126 states that are party to the Convention against Torture, Indonesia is required to present periodic summaries of its efforts to put the convention's provisions into effect.

Nugroho Wisnumurti, Indonesia's permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, highlighted Indonesia's efforts and progress in promoting human rights in the country on Tuesday.

The progress was duly noted by the committee.

This includes continuing efforts to reform the legal system, the inclusion of human rights articles in the Constitution, the establishment of human rights courts and the formal separation of the police and the military.

Besides the human rights violations in East Timor, dozens of other similar cases that occurred in other places in Indonesia, including Jakarta have not been heard in court.

While there was never any shortage of investigations, only a few of these eventually reached a court of law. When they did, the punishment was often seen as too lenient.

The Indonesian report was reviewed by a panel of 10 independent experts.

They gave Jakarta another rap on the knuckles for failing to give access to an official appointed by the torture committee to make on-site investigations in the country.

"There was a lack of response by the Government to communications sent by the Special Rapporteur on torture, and he was not invited to visit the country, despite requests dating back to 1993," it said.

It added that the rapporteur be invited to visit Indonesia, including conflict areas.

The committee recommended, among other things, that Indonesia:

* establish an effective, independent complaints system to undertake prompt investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by police and other officials;

* amend penal legislation so that torture and related offenses are strictly prohibited under criminal law, in keeping with Convention standards;

* ensure that all persons, including senior officials, who were involved in the perpetration of torture are prosecuted;

* ensure that the ad hoc human rights court on East Timor has the capacity to consider the many human rights abuses that were alleged to have occurred there between 1 January 1999 and 25 October 1999.

The panel of experts also cited concern about "a climate of impunity" for torture committed in Indonesia and about a large number of allegations of such maltreatment by the police, the army, and paramilitary groups. 

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