Subject: Indonesia refuses visa to UN experts

Also: Dr Shameem denied entry visa to Indonesia

Last Updated 07/04/2005

FIJI: Indonesia refuses visa to human rights campaigner

The Director of Fiji's Human Rights Commission has been refused entry to Indonesia. Dr Shaista Shameem was one of three people named by the United Nations Secretary-General to review the justice process in Indonesia and East Timor. And it was in that capacity that she applied for a visa - a request that has been turned down.

Presenter/Interviewer: Bruce Hill Speakers: Imrana Jalal, former Fiji Human Rights Commissioner; Richard Chauvel, Head of Australia Asia Pacific Institute

HILL: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced in New York earlier this year that we was appointing a commission of experts to review Timor war crimes prosecutions and asses why a 1999 Security Council resolution to try those accused of war crimes has failed.

He named the three experts as Justice Prafullachandra Bhagwati of India, Professor Yozo Yokota of Japan and Shaista Shameem of Fiji.

Indonesia won't let them in though, and Dr Richard Chauvel, an expert in Indonesian affairs at Melbourne's Victoria University, says that's not surprising.

CHAUVEL: It underlines for us just how sensitive the issue of East Timor's separation and the events that surrounded that remains for Indonesia and for the Indonesian elite and its domestic politics.

We've seen in the last few days in Canberra and Sydney just how far President Bambang Yudhoyono has brought Indonesian policy in terms of a rapprochement with the Australian government, and with Australia more generally.

But the issue of bringing those responsible for what happened in East Timor in '99 to justice within Indonesia or within an international context is a step beyond that.

I don't think the composition of the UN team has got anything to do with it. It may have ramifications for Indonesia's relations with Fiji, but the person could have come from Outer Mongolia, I don't think it would have made any difference.

HILL: Imrana Jalal, a former Fiji Human Rights Commissioner and currently human rights advisor at the UN-funded Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team in Suva agrees that Dr Shameem coming from Fiji has nothing to do with Indonesia refusing her a visa.

She says in the context of international relations though, such an action will be regarded as serious.

JALAL: Rarely do countries deny the office of the High Commissioner the capacity to allow their representatives to move into a country.

So it is quite serious in UN terms.

Particularly because Indonesia is a member of the United Nations, and it will be seriously frowned upon. I mean, you know the UN doesn't work by reprimanding its members but there are ways that refusal will be used to publicise Indonesia's human rights record.

For example, when a country refuses to allow a particular representative of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to come into the country, the implication is that the reason for the visit in the first place is justifiable.

So in a sense the Indonesian government is saying to the international community at large, we have something to be worried about.

HILL: Dr Shaista Shameem was refused entry into Indonesia in her capacity as a UN special rapporteur, and not in her capacity as Director of the Fiji Human Rights Commission, but is there any sense in which this is a Pacific issue?

JALAL: I'm one people who views Timor-Leste as a Pacific country. I know that geographically that's not correct, but certainly in terms of context, in terms of level of development, in terms of how the people feel about themselves, I regard it as a Pacific Island nation.

And there are moves, I understand, for Timor-Leste to enter the Forum group, which is a Pacific Island regional grouping.

HILL: Could this impact on diplomatic relations between Fiji and Indonesia?

JALAL: Well I wouldn't go so far as to say it would affect relationships, but certainly it would be frowned upon by the Fiji government that one of its citizens is being denied entry into Indonesia. And for all the wrong reasons.

The reason it would not have an impact on diplomatic relations is that human rights is not necessarily high on the agenda of any Pacific Island country.

Perhaps the Fiji government might be minded to write a letter to the Indonesian government expressing its disappointment that one of its citizens was denied entry into Indonesia, but I don't think it would have any long-term impact, no.


Dr Shameem denied entry visa to Indonesia

April 6, 2005 10:39pm PAC News

06 APRIL 2005 SUVA (Pacnews) --- Fiji Human Rights Commission director, Doctor Shaista Shameem has been denied a visa by the Indonesian Government, FBCL reports

Dr Shameem is one of the three commissioners in the United Nations appointed Commission of Experts to review the justice process in Indonesia and East Timor.

Two other members of the commission - Justice Prafullachandra Bhagwati of India and Professor Yozo Yokota of Japan have also been denied visas.

Human rights observers have written a joint letter to Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to urge him to grant the three commissioners visas and to extend them full cooperation.

This includes freedom of movement throughout Indonesia, free access to all relevant documents, freedom to meet and interview people who possess information considered necessary by the commission and appropriate security arrangements that don't restrict their movement.

The joint letter said this was an ideal time for Indonesia to take the lead in promoting and protecting human rights in Southeast Asia as current chair of the UN Human Rights Commission.... PNS (NEDS)


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