Subject: The 8 Munir Demands: New NGO Alliance Starts Rights Battle

The Jakarta Post

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Alliance of NGOs Starts Rights Battle

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Citing government failure to pursue alleged human rights violations, non-governmental organizations have grouped in a national alliance known as the People's Fight Back Committee (Korban).

Indria Fernida of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) told a press conference Friday the alliance was formed in Parung, West Java, in early November.

The alliance comprises more than 50 organizations, including Kontras, the Indonesian Environmental Forum, University of Indonesia's Human Rights Committee, the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation and the 1965 Murder Victims Research Foundation (YPKP '65).

Indria expressed the alliance's disappointment about international conventions which, she said, had been ratified by Indonesia but hadn't been implemented or enforced.

"There hasn't been any improvement worth bragging about since the fall of (president) Soeharto in 1998. Changes have only been made on paper," said Samuel Gultom of Kontras.

"We want to remind the government about the real changes that need to be made. Indonesia has been marching in place for 10 years," Samuel said during the press conference, held at the Kontras office in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

"Korban is our attempt to establish a cross-sectoral fight for human rights, which will surely make more impact than if we continued to work on our own," he continued.

First on the agenda for the alliance is a series of events commemorating International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

"The peak will be on Dec. 10, when members of the organizations joining hands in Korban will rally at the State Palace and deliver the eight Munir demands," Samuel said, referring to a list of demands for immediate action in eight public sectors including education, culture, women's rights and the environment.

The demands are named for a well-known human rights activist murdered in 2004.

Edy Gerung from the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation explained the list may grow as the alliance develops.

A speaker at a public discussion on human rights in Indonesia, held by Kontras on the same day, Bejo Untung of YPKP'65, said the government needed to take responsibility for the mass murder of the members of the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in 1965.

"We've discovered several mass graves used to bury the victims. We found three mass graves in Pemalang and five more in Pati, both in Central Java. There are witnesses, still alive, to tell the story of how they helped the government in the murders," he told The Jakarta Post.

Bejo said the government needed to formally acknowledge its past mistakes before moving on. (lva)


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