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Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders Visits Indonesia this Week

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The Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders is currently on a working visit in Indonesia upon the government's invitation. FORUM-ASIA welcomes the extension of the visit invitation, but asks for more commitment from the Indonesian government to support the Special Procedures within the U.N. human rights machinery.
The United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani, is currently on a working visit to Indonesia from 5-13 June, 2007, upon the invitation of the Indonesian government. The purpose of the visit is to assess the situation of human rights defenders in the country and to examine the legal framework and the environment in which they operate. She is scheduled to meet with Indonesian government authorities, police and military officials, and civil society groups during her visit.

FORUM-ASIA appreciates the Indonesian government’s willingness to allow Ms. Jilani to make a working visit to the country, but it notes with concern that Ms. Jilani has been denied security clearance to visit Poso and West Papua, two critical areas in Indonesia where human rights violations are rampant and human rights defenders face particular risk because of their work.

The Poso district has been riddled with religious violence since the late 1990s and death toll estimates have risen to the thousands. Many churches and mosques have been destroyed, especially during the first few months after the violence erupted in December 1998. Indonesia’s Papua Province, on the other hand, has been facing an ongoing brutal and violent repression by the Indonesian security forces in their efforts to stifle independence claims.

FORUM-ASIA thus reiterates its call to the Indonesian government, as a newly-elected member of the Human Rights Council, to manifest its commitment in promoting and protecting human rights in the country by making full use of the existing capacities of the special procedures in the U.N. human rights machinery.

The Indonesian government was elected to the Human Rights Council on 17 May 2007 along with two other Asian countries, the Philippines and India. Despite its recent election, Indonesia is still far from being said to be supporting these special procedures. It has yet to extend a standing invitation to special procedures to give opportunity to all mandate holders to visit and assist the country in its attempts to promote and protect human rights. The government has also yet to respond to individual requests for country visits from the Special Rapporteur (SR) on summary executions (requested in 2004), the SR on the right to freedom of opinion and expression (2002), and the SR on freedom of religion or belief (1996). “For Indonesia to take up to 11 years to respond to requests for visits from special procedures is clearly not the behavior of a responsible member of the Human Rights Council,” said Anselmo Lee, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

This visit to Indonesia will be the last country visit of Ms. Jilani before her mandate ends. Following this visit, Ms. Jilani will be making her recommendations in her mission report on the situation of human rights defenders in the country. FORUM-ASIA hopes that the government of Indonesia would respond to each recommendation and to enhance follow-up mechanisms to assist in their implementation. FORUM-ASIA urges Indonesia to play a more active role in pushing for the strengthening of the special procedures system during this vital period of negotiation in institution building at the Human Rights Council. Mr. Lee stresses, “A timely and relevant response from the Indonesian government on the recommendations of the Special Representative after her visit will be an indication that it is ready to look beyond its narrow self-interest and recognize the importance of special procedures in Asia who do not have an alternative regional human rights mechanism to turn to.”