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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Opening remarks by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay at a press conference during her mission to Indonesia

Indonesia: Pillay ends mission

13 November 2012

Jakarta, 13 November 2012

“Good afternoon, and thank you for coming.

It has been a great pleasure to visit Indonesia and I wish I could have stayed longer to see other parts of your beautiful country and get to know the people and the human rights issues that they face in more detail. I would like to thank the Government of Indonesia for inviting me to Jakarta and for its support and efforts in assisting with my programme.

Since arriving in Jakarta on Sunday, I have met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Law and Human Rights, the Coordinating Minister of Legal, Political and Security Affairs, and Secretary General of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. I have also held talks with the nine judges of the Constitutional Court and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I also met with Indonesian representatives of the regional human rights mechanisms established under the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), national human rights institutions, civil society, victims, the United Nations Country Team and members of the diplomatic community.

Indonesia has made important progress in its democratic transition since 1998, which can serve as a positive model to other countries going through such changes. Through its constructive role in the regional human rights mechanisms of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and at the Human Rights Council, Indonesia has been making an increasingly prominent contribution to the advancement of human rights in the region and globally.

Indonesia is to be commended for its high rate of ratification of international human rights treaties. It is party to eight core human rights conventions, and has committed to the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) and the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. It has recently ratified the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers, sending an encouraging signal to neighboring countries that have still to embrace international human rights standards protecting the rights of migrants. During my visit, I also encouraged the Government to accede to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.

In September, Indonesia accepted 150 of the 180 recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review under the Human Rights Council. I was also pleased to learn that the Government recently agreed to a visit by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, which I hope will encourage other Governments in the region to follow suit.

I was impressed to see the strength and vibrancy of the three human rights institutions in the country; Komnas HAM, the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) that has received A-status accreditation from the International Coordinating Committee of NHRIs; Komnas Perempuan that works actively on protection of women’s rights; and the National Committee for Child Protection. These institutions are vital for the protection of rights in Indonesia and I commend the Government for supporting them as separate independent institutions and encourage strengthened financial support. I found civil society organizations to be doing vital human rights work in a diverse range of areas, often working under very difficult and sometimes threatening situations. Similarly, I was encouraged by the work of the free media in Indonesia, including on critical human rights issues. Governments at central, district and local levels should be proud of the work that these groups do, see them as partners and ensure their protection throughout the country.

During my talks with the Government, I stressed the importance of translating Indonesia’s international human rights obligations into domestic law. I have seen that this process has begun in many areas and encourage the Government to continue with this and resist any back-sliding in legislative standards at the local or national levels.

Over the last two days, I have had the opportunity to hear many different perspectives from the highest levels of government to representatives of the most disadvantaged and excluded communities. It has left me with an impression of a country of great diversity which has been through major transformations in a very short period of time. Indonesia remains a young democracy, which has suffered from decades of military rule, and still has to strengthen accountability mechanisms aimed at identifying responsibilities for past and present human rights violations.

A fundamental principle of international human rights law is non-discrimination. This applies in all areas to all people. In terms of religion, the Constitution of Indonesia upholds this principle, stating that every person shall be free to choose and to practice the religion of his or her choice. Indonesia has a rich culture and history of diversity and tolerance. At the same time, it risks losing this if firm action is not taken to address increasing levels of violence and hatred towards religious minorities and narrow and extremist-interpretations of Islam.

During my mission, I met with representatives from the Ahmadiyya, Christian, Shia and traditional belief communities. I was distressed to hear accounts of violent attacks, forced displacement, denial of identification cards and other forms of discrimination and harassment against them. I was also concerned to hear that the police have been failing to provide adequate protection in these cases.

Of course, issues of community violence are complex and not easily solved. However, I was particularly concerned about statements made by officials promoting religious discrimination. I recommended Indonesia should amend or repeal the 1965 Blasphemy Law, the 1969 and 2006 ministerial decrees on building houses of worship and religious harmony, and the 2008 Joint Ministerial Decree on Ahmadiyya. As a former judge, I am concerned that the local authorities in Bogor are failing to enforce a decision of the Supreme Court to reopen the Church. I raised this case in a number of meetings, including with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The important work of Komnas Perempuan has shed light on issues of discrimination against women in Indonesia. Yesterday, I met with a group of women victims of violence who explained the discrimination they face in a broad range of contexts in the country. I was shocked to hear the level of discrimination and injustice that some of them have faced. I am particularly concerned to hear about the arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of Sharia Law in Aceh, enforcing brutal punishments of stoning and caning, and raids on hair salons and other places where people gather, creating an environment of intimidation and fear. I was also concerned to hear about police violence against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community and urged the Government to ensure their protection. I also encouraged the Government to ensure sexual and reproductive rights of unmarried girls and women.

During my visit, I learnt more about the extent and egregious nature of past violations of human rights, from the killings of communists in 1965 and of students in the late 1990s, to later crimes in what is now Timor Leste and in Aceh. I was encouraged to learn about the conduct of a number of high level inquiries and the passing of a law in 2000 on the establishment of human rights courts. I however regret that these steps appear now to have stalled and have so far not lead to credible prosecutions of perpetrators. There is a need to strengthen the political will to address serious human rights violations that took place in the past.

I told the Minister of Foreign Affairs that the world is waiting for justice for human rights defender Munir Said Thalib, who was murdered in 2004. I requested a new investigation into the killing, and review of the trial of Muchdi Purwopranjono, in order to establish clear responsibilities for the murder.

I also encouraged the Government to move forward with setting up ad hoc human rights courts, as envisaged under law No. 26/2000, to investigate the enforced disappearances of student activists in the late 1990s and serious violations in Aceh and Papua.

I also raised concerns with the Government about increased violence in Papua this year. I welcomed on-going investigations into the May-June violence and recommended that the Government take further steps to ensure criminal accountability. I was also concerned to hear about activists being imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression.

In my meetings, I raised the need to address issues of torture, and was informed that law reforms are underway to define and criminalize torture as a matter of priority, and that it was important to ensure prosecutions of police and other perpetrators of torture. The Government’s commitment to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture is positive and will help to strengthen torture prevention in the country. This is an important treaty that enables regular unannounced inspections by international and national bodies in prisons and detention centres, thereby acting as a deterrent against torture and other forms of cruel and degrading treatment. Another important step will be to ensure the full implementation of Police Regulation No. 8/2009 on Implementation of Human Rights Standards and Principles in Carrying out Police Tasks.

Indonesia has shown great promise in coming out of a dark period of history and transforming itself into a vibrant democracy. I have offered the Government the assistance of my Office to further help in promoting human rights and good practices. We would be glad to help in any way we can in a sustained effort to improve the human rights of all the inhabitants of Indonesia.

Thank you.”


For further information and media enquiries, please contact:
In Jakarta: Mr. Michele Zaccheo, Director of the UN Information Centre in Jakarta (+62 21 3983 1011 / mob +62 813 835 80908 / email: [email protected]).
In Geneva: Mr. Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / [email protected]).

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