Subject: JP: Slow year for human rights, say activists [+Editorial: Truly Malaysia]

The Jakarta Post

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Slow year for human rights, say activists

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Human rights activists say there has been no significant improvement in human rights protection in the country this year.

"Many people have been said to have disappeared without a trace, but ipso iure (by operation of the law) we can not find the kidnappers. (Human rights activist) Munir died, but ipso iure we can not find his murderers.

"Many lives were taken in East Timor, but the courts can not find any proof that human rights abuses happened there," human rights activist Soetandyo Wignjosoebroto said here Monday.

Soetandyo, who chaired the selection team for the recruitment of the current membership of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas Ham) attributed the problems to the elites' "lack of guts" to face the politics risks that could result from law enforcement efforts.

"We can still see a lot of impunities; there's no significant improvement in human rights protection in the country," Soetandyo told the audience at an event to commemorate International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 at the office of Komnas Ham in Central Jakarta.

However, commission chairman Ifdhal Kasim said the year 2007 was a milestone in the progress of human rights protection in Indonesia, with the government starting to implement the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights, which were ratified in 2005.

But he also said that the government had yet to seriously implement the principles and provisions of the two covenants by not reforming existing regulations and annulling those against the covenants.

"This can be seen as the government's unwillingness or disregard for doing something (to improve human rights protection)," said Ifdhal.

He said Indonesia still was not conducive to a good human rights situation, with a number of atrocities left unsolved.

These cases include the May 1998 riots, the Trisakti shootings, the Semanggi I shooting incidents in 1998, the Semanggi II shooting incidents in 1999, and the Wasior (2001-2002) and Wamena (2003) rights cases in Papua, whose initial investigations had long been completed but were never followed up.

Ifdhal added that many officials refused to cooperate with human rights investigators.

He said some of the prominent human rights violations that occurred this year included the suffering of the Lapindo mudflow victims, domestic violence and human trafficking.

"Domestic violence contributed 20 percent of the cases reported to us, while human trafficking is getting more common. The government's efforts to curb both cases are still very poor," Ifdhal told reporters after the event.

He said the commission also recorded "disturbances" to freedom of religion in 2007, while observing what had happened to followers of the Ahmadiyah and Al Qiyadah sects.

Regarding past human rights abuses, he said the government needed to reestablish the truth and reconciliation commission, which was dismissed by the Constitutional Court in December last year.

"We recommend the immediate re-establishment of the commission because there were too many human rights atrocities cases in the past that we can't settle through just the human rights courts.

"We need to settle the past cases so we can move forward with the new ones," said Ifdhal. (wda)

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