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Home » , , » Indonesia Elected to UN Rights Panel Despite Concerns

Indonesia Elected to UN Rights Panel Despite Concerns

Written By Voice Of Baptist Papua on May 22, 2011 | 9:27 PM

Indonesia was among 15 nations elected on Friday to the UN Human Rights Council, despite a human rights watchdog earlier stating the country had questionable qualifications for membership. 
In a General Assembly vote, Indonesia was elected along with India, the Philippines, and Kuwait, on a clean or uncontested, slate of Asian nations for three-year council terms. 
Kuwait stepped into the race last week after Western countries persuaded Arab states that Syria was not a suitable candidate. 

Africa and Western Europe also presented clean slates on Friday, but there were contested votes for Eastern Europe — where the Czech Republic and Romania defeated Georgia — and Latin America, where Chile and Costa Rica edged out Nicaragua. 

The 47-nation Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, is the main UN body charged with monitoring member states' compliance with international rights norms. 

On Thursday, UN Watch listed Indonesia, along with the Philippines, India  and Burkina Faso, has having questionable qualifications, while the advocacy group said Kuwait, Nicuargua and the Congo were unqualified to sit on the UN's top human rights body.  

“Unfortunately, some of the worst violators of human rights get elected” to the body, Hillel Neur, the head of UN Watch said at UN headquarters on Thursday, on the eve of the vote.  

The Geneva-based advocacy group assessed the qualifications of the countries using information from international nongovernmental organizations, including Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House.

In a recent interview with the Jakarta Globe, a spokesman for the Asian Human Rights Commission said religious conflict and continuing military impunity in some regions, including in Papua, were marring Indonesia’s reputation.

“Despite many positive steps forward in the last 13 years of reforms, these problems, in particular the lack of accountability and climate of impunity for past abuses, seriously tarnish Indonesia’s human rights record,” Michael Anthony said.

The country, he said, has yet to overcome its military past. “The military remains a key power holder in politics and economics and is not just an instrument of security for the state,” he said. “This needs to be addressed as a priority for the many positive steps forward on paper to become a fruitful reality.”

Anthony added the commission regarded President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s human rights record as “mixed.”

“While he openly supports human rights groups and has shown himself to be approachable on the subject of human rights, which is positive, he has failed on key issues and decision points to back up his words with action,” he said. “He has usually responded to some of the easier demands without leading to real accountability concerning human rights abuses.”

Yudhoyono, he said, has not responded strongly enough to cases of religious violence and has tolerated violent pressure by radical Islamic groups.

“His failure to take a strong stand in support of the Constitution during the recent wave of religious violence in the last months and years speaks to this,” he said.

Anthony added the House of Representatives was also dragging its feet in terms of human rights-related legislation.

Of key concern to the AHRC is a review of military law to ensure crimes committed against civilians by soldiers are tried in civilian criminal courts and reform of the penal code to bring it in line with the international treaties Indonesia has ratified.

The Attorney General’s Office is one of the major obstacles for the effective prosecution of human rights violations, Anthony said. The president, he said, needs to ensure the AGO starts full and genuine investigations into all cases submitted to the courts by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).
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