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Jakarta denies UN plans to open human rights office in Indonesia

Agence France Presse - March 6, 1997

A foreign ministry official has dismissed a report that the UN High Commission for Human Rights is to open an office in Jakarta to monitor the situation in East Timor, a report said Friday. "There are not enough grounds for the commissioner to place a representative in Jakarta to monitor the human rights situation in East Timor, " director for international organization Hassan Wirayuda was quoted by the Jakarta Post as saying.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ayala Lasso, said in Geneva on Wednesday that he hoped there would soon be an agreement that would allow a representative office in Jakarta for Indonesia and East Timor. He said Indonesia had promised to open a human rights office in Jakarta when he visited the country in December 1995. Jakarta had also made a new proposal on the matter two weeks ago, he added.

Wirayuda, who could not be reached for confirmation Friday, was quoted by the daily as denying the promise.

He said that a memorandum of intent on technical cooperation between the Indonesian government and the UN commission for human rights was signed in October 1994 but it only entailed a broad cooperation in human rights development and awareness in Indonesia.

The commission last year presented the draft of the memorandum but Wirayuda said its content had "veered away" from technical cooperation to human rights monitoring.

"We have observed since last year a tendency to shift away from the technical cooperation aspects," Wirayuda said. He speculated that Lasso's office may have been under pressure from western countries "to head in that direction."

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1975 and declared it its 27th province the following year. The United Nations still views Lisbon as the administrator of the territory.