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Rights groups urge government to cooperate with Commission of Experts

Kompas - April 14, 2005

Jakarta – Indonesian non-government human rights organizations have asked the government to cooperate with the United Nations’ Commission of Experts. This cooperation should be directed towards providing visas to the commission so that they can enter Indonesia and provide access for them to hold discussions with the Attorney General, the Supreme Court, the Ad Hoc Human Rights Tribunal on East Timor and human rights groups.

This statement was conveyed by the coordinator of the Human Rights Working Group, Rafendi Djamin, the executive director of the Institute for Public Research and Advocacy (Elsam), the chairperson of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), Johnson Panjaitan, and the secretary-general of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Mufty Al Makarim, on Wednesday April 13 in Jakarta.

According to Djamin, it is reasonable to question Indonesia’s attitude towards the commission. The East Timorese government demonstrated a cooperative attitude by providing access to the three members of the commission when they were in East Timor between April 3-9.

On April 9 a number of Indonesian human rights organisation activists met with the commission in East Timor. From these meetings they obtained the information that the commission planned to visit Indonesia between April 11-18 but their visa applications were rejected by the government.

“They only got a one-day transit visa dated April 10. Because of this, they returned directly to Geneva. However, they are still trying to apply for a visa for a second time so that they can come to Indonesia”, said Djamin.

When he was attending a session of the UN’s Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Djamin was able to raise the question with Indonesia’s permanent deputy-representative in Geneva, Edy Haryadi, who explained that although the Commission of Experts was only given transit visas there is a possibility that they would be given a visa on arrival.

The Indonesian government’s refusal to work with the commission not only damages Indonesia’s image but also damages groups in other countries trying to improve the mechanisms to protect and uphold human rights.

When contacted by Kompas yesterday, Indonesian foreign affairs spokesperson Yuri Thamrin said that for the moment the government had given them transit visas. Meanwhile for a visa to enter Indonesia, consideration is still be given to the timing because the issue of the Commission of Experts’ visit to Indonesia is actually more basic. “Our position is clear. First give the Truth and Friendship Commission a chance [to do its] work because its members have only just been chosen. Plus [we see] the arrival of the Commission of Experts in Indonesia as a preemptive act”, said Thamrin. (SON/LUK)

[Translated by James Balowski.]
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