Mon, 19 Nov 2001

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia's human rights record comes under international scrutiny this week as the United Nations Committee against Torture in Geneva begins a review of a report filed by Jakarta concerning its commitment to abiding by international standards.

Going through the long list of probing questions presented by the committee at the weekend, it was obviously far from being impressed by the report and Indonesia's overall performance.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission said at the weekend that Felice Gaer, the committee's special rapporteur on the situation in Indonesia, found that the Indonesian report "was limited" and "told little about practical implementation."

Gaer nevertheless acknowledged that Indonesia had taken a number of positive formal steps, including separating the police from the military, holding democratic elections, and disbanding certain internal security organizations.

The panel of 10 independent experts also noted that many allegations had been received of ill-treatment in areas of Indonesia where conflicts were ongoing, including Aceh, Irian Jaya and Maluku, but that the report failed to address the problems in these areas.

The committee, which opened its 27th annual session last week, is scheduled on Monday to begin a hearing to review the Indonesian report, which was introduced on Friday by Lucia H. Rustam, Minister Counselor of the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the United Nations Office in Geneva. Also representing Indonesia was Mohammad Anshor of the Directorate for International Organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Indonesia, as one of the 126 states that are party to the Convention against Torture, is required to present periodic summations to the committee of national efforts to put the convention's provisions into effect.

Indonesia's record has been far from rosy.

Even after East Timor seceded from Indonesia, questions are still being raised about Jakarta's failure to prosecute those responsible for allowing East Timor to degenerate into a state of lawlessness in the aftermath of a UN-sponsored self-determination vote in August 1999.

The United Nations has its own reasons for questioning Indonesia. Three of its staffers were killed by a mob while working in an Indonesian refugee camp for East Timorese. The United Nations has since criticized the 10 to 20-month jail terms meted out to the six men found guilty of the September 2000 killings.

Among the questions already posed by the committee which Indonesia must answer on Monday are allegations

* that detainees are often denied legal counsel and medical attention;

* that sexual violence is frequently used as a form of coercion and that ill-treatment of women by soldiers and police officers is rife in conflict areas;

* that demonstrations are frequently quelled using deadly force.

Rustam, in her introduction to the report on Friday, highlighted some of the things that Indonesia had carried out, including:

* the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission and a National Plan of Action for Human Rights;

* the setting up of Human Rights Courts was underway;

* a number of soldiers, army officers, and former government ministers had been sentenced for human rights offenses;

She said that her government faced obstacles in its efforts to promote human rights, including a lack of financial resources, the vast geographical extent of the archipelago, which rendered law enforcement difficult, and a lack of human resources.