Subject: AP: Indonesian amb appointed to chair U.N. Human Rights Commission

Also: WT - Indonesia to chair U.N. human rights panel

Indonesian ambassador appointed to chair U.N. Human Rights Commission

January 17, 2005 12:33pm AP Online

GENEVA_The Indonesian ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Makarim Wibisono, Monday was elected chairman of the U.N. Human Rights Commission despite concerns by some campaigners that his country has done too little to tackle its own abuses.

The chairman can exercise considerable influence in scheduling of sensitive issues and debates during the six-week commission session each spring. Often the chairman has to work as a mediator to find common ground among member governments, who sometimes bitterly disagree on the most controversial issues.

Loubna Freih, spokeswoman for the advocacy group Human Rights Watch, said she hoped Wibisono would "be as fair a chairman as possible."

The job, which lasts for one year, traditionally rotates among ambassadors of the five geographical groupings in the United Nations. He succeeds Ambassador Mike Smith of Australia, a member of the Western Group.

Wibisono, a seasoned diplomat, had been proposed by the Asian group of U.N. members and was appointed by consensus among the 53 commission member nations, ranging from Argentina to Zimbabwe. Other current members include Brazil, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan and the United States.

This year the annual session of the commission _ the top U.N. human rights watchdog _ opens March 14.

It is expected to ponder the perennial questions of human rights in individual countries, including China, Cuba, Nepal and Sudan's conflict-ravaged Darfur region.

Freih said Indonesia's own record deserves scrutiny.

Campaigners have long cited abuses by Indonesia's military in breakaway regions of the country, including Aceh _ where the tsunami that struck last month compounded the impact of years of conflict. They also point to abuses by the military in West Papua and in East Timor in the decades before it won independence in a U.N.-supervised referendum in 1999.

Indonesian authorities have rejected claims of human rights violations, and said that the security forces are obliged to take action against separatists to safeguard the country's territorial integrity.


Indonesia to chair U.N. human rights panel

By Betsy Pisik

THE WASHINGTON TIMES Published January 17, 2005

UNITED NATIONS -- Indonesia will be chosen today to chair the U.N. Human Rights Commission, according to sources in Geneva.

The archipelago nation is not exactly a beacon of human rights and self-determination, say Western diplomats and human-rights advocates, but they also say it is not as embarrassing as seeing Libya elected to the same position two years ago.

By chairing the commission, Jakarta will have some latitude in determining how to resolve the inevitable disputes over resolutions condemning dictatorships from Cuba to Zimbabwe. It also will have latitude to appoint rapporteurs authorized to travel the world and evaluate the rights of minorities, prisoners and other disenfranchised portions of society.

The commission will meet for six high-decibel weeks this year, starting March 14.

As with most desirable U.N. jobs, the Human Rights Commission chairman is rotated regionally. And as the unchallenged choice of the Asian group, Indonesia's candidacy can only be rubber-stamped by commission members. It was the same with Libya, the choice of the African group in 2002.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said this weekend that Indonesia "is not the same tragedy as Libya, but neither is it a paragon of virtue." He said Jakarta committed "extensive atrocities in Aceh and shows a determined unwillingness to bring to justice people responsible for atrocities in East Timor."

On the other hand, he added, the new government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has taken positive steps toward reform.

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