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Indonesia accused of avoiding human rights issues

Jakarta Post - March 19, 2024

Yvette Tanamal, Jakarta – The government's attitude toward the country's human rights issues remains avoidant and contradictory to reality, activists said on Monday, after last week's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) session in Geneva, Switzerland, put Indonesia on the defensive.

Questions from ICCPR experts about Indonesia's human and political rights record, including some scrutinizing outgoing President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's neutrality in last month's general election, were either answered poorly or entirely dismissed by the government, the activists in Jakarta maintained.

In Geneva last week, a document listing 26 human rights notes submitted by various stakeholders, including civil society groups, took center stage in a two-day session on the second ICCPR periodic report on Indonesia. The list highlighted issues ranging from the revised Criminal Code passed last year and past human rights violations to freedom of expression.

The session, some six hours in total, saw the government delegation, led by the Foreign Ministry's multilateral cooperation director general, boasting "significant developments" in the country's posture on human rights. The delegation was also at the receiving end of the questions posed by the 18 expert members of the ICCPR.

But Indonesia's responses, activists said on Monday, were defensive at best and distorted at worst. While most of the human rights questions posed to delegation had been repeatedly brought up at the international level, such as cases of violence in Papua, the government had failed to provide any new answers or offer any meaningful accountability to date, they said.

"The answers given were head-scratchers if not disappointing," Amnesty International Indonesia office deputy director Wirya Adiwena said at a press briefing in Jakarta on Monday. "It feels like deja vu. They keep repeating their typical answers, sweeping things under the rug."

Some questions were even skipped entirely, said other activists present at Monday's press conference, such as Mulki Makmun of Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR).

On the second day of the session in Geneva, ICCPR expert member Bacre Waly Ndiaye of Senegal asked the Indonesian delegation about Jokowi's alleged partisanship in last month's presidential election and what measures would be taken to ensure that "high-ranking officials like the president" could be prevented from "interfering with the electoral process".

The delegation did not answer Ndiaye's question directly at the time, but Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lalu M. Iqbal said on Monday that their silence was not an attempt to avoid discussions on the matter.

"It's true that we simply did not have time to answer the question because there were many of them and it would have been impossible to answer each one," he said. "That kind of situation is commonplace in an interactive dialogue such as this one."

Some of the most frequently asked questions during the Geneva session were about past human rights abuses, including the murder of activist Munir Said Thalib.

During the session, the Indonesian delegation maintained that the government had "started the process of restoring the victims' rights" so as "to some extent provide closure for the victims' families".

But AJAR's Mulki said on Monday that the government's reparations process had been largely opaque and had excluded civil society groups.

"In today's political context, people keep asking whether they would ever be involved in the national reconciliation process of past rights abuses," Mulki said. "If the participation of civil groups remains limited, then we must be suspicious."

The ICCPR hearing is part of a periodic dialogue between the United Nations' Human Rights Council and its members. The meetings are voluntary and not legally binding.

Source: https://asianews.network/indonesia-accused-of-avoiding-human-rights-issues