Subject: Indonesia House ratifies rights covenants ahead of recess [+Implications] 

also: What ratification of rights covenants implies

The Jakarta Post Saturday, October 1, 2005

House ratifies covenants ahead of recess

Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The elimination of all forms of restrictions on freedom of expression, threats to religious freedom, forced labor and discrimination in the workplace are new tasks for the government after the House of Representatives finally ratified on Friday two long-awaited United Nations covenants.

The ratification of the UN 1969 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights wrapped up the House's first one-year sitting period. The lawmakers will now go into a three-week recess.

Chairman of House Commission I on defense and foreign affairs Theo L. Sambuaga said ratifying the covenants would commit Indonesia to protecting the rights of its citizens to an international standard.

The covenants will also serve as an important main reference for national laws that have been or will be passed in the future, according to Theo, although some House members said that most of the covenants' articles were already recognized by the 1945 Constitution and other laws.

The House also approved one major additional clause to Article 1 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regarding the right of self-determination.

"Self-determination does not apply to any parts of a united state, and there's no parts of the covenant that will go against the unitary state of Indonesia," Theo said.

It took the lawmakers less than three weeks to ratify the two covenants, a process that also involved consultation with human rights activists and experts in international law. A bill's deliberation normally lasts more than a month.

Some observers believe that the ratification was simply aimed to facilitate the request from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) following the Aug. 18 signing of a peace accord to end almost 30 years of separatist fighting in the province.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said the ratification would mean the international community could hold Indonesia accountable for the implementation of the two covenants.

"We're now responsible to the international community for any violations of the covenants. We're also obliged to write a biennial report on our implementation of the covenants," he said.

Human rights activists, however, called the ratification half-hearted.

Ifdhal Kasim, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), said the ratification had excluded two optional protocols, which were as important as other clauses in the covenant on civil and political rights.

The two excluded protocols were on the mechanism of victims of human rights violations to individually claim for rights restoration and the abolishment of capital punishment.

"The House was so worried about the self-determination clause, that they didn't focus on these two protocols, which are more relevant to our situation now," said Ifdhal.

The two international covenants were the latest of only 12 bills the lawmakers managed to endorse since they took office in October last year. The House had set a target of passing 55 bills, in line with the National Legislation Program for 2005.


The Jakarta Post Saturday, October 1, 2005

What ratification of rights covenants implies

Implications of ratification of UN Conventions on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to states (selected). The state must:

1. Ensure that all individuals can enjoy the rights recognized in the Covenant, regardless of their race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status

2. Protect the right to life; in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, the death sentence may be imposed only for the most serious crimes.

3. Prohibit slavery, slave trade in all their forms, and forced or compulsory labor.

4. Ensure that everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.

5. Guarantee people's rights to liberty of movement and freedom to choose residence, freedom to leave and enter their country.

6. Ensure equality before the courts and tribunals.

7. Protect people's right to freedom of expression and ideas in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of their choice; the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions.

8. Recognize the right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family.

9. Recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts.

10. Recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favorable conditions of work which ensure, fair and equal remuneration and opportunity of promotion to appropriate higher level, particularly for women.

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