Human rights activists on UN visit to Indonesia: 'Hopeful but not optimistic'
JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesian human rights advocacy groups are "hopeful, but not optimistic" that the United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner’s upcoming visit to the country will yield tangible results in the near future.
Advocacy groups want the High Commissioner to pressure Indonesian President Joko Widodo on a number of issues, including an end to impunity for past human rights violations, freedom of expression and religion, corporal and capital punishment, and security force violations and extrajudicial killings in Papua.
The symbolic importance of the visit is not lost on human rights organizations in Indonesia
After what he calls “democratic backsliding” in the region, Amnesty International Indonesia Director Usman Hamid said Indonesia is “the last mohican” and the visit comes at a crucial time.
“The fact that the High Commissioner is here sends a positive signal that Indonesia is still struggling at least to maintain human rights,” he said on Friday, February 2.
“Such communication or dialogue is an important safeguard to ensure Indonesia is still on track.”
The visit also comes against a backdrop of disappointment in Widodo’s failure to make good on his campaign promise to prioritize human rights.
Hamid said the President is “surrounded by a number of wolves” who limit his ability to address human rights issues.
“There are people with good faith who are trying to advance human rights in Indonesia, but there are also people who not only do not have a human rights priority, but have been responsible for crimes against humanity themselves,” he said.
High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein is set to visit Jakarta from February 5-7, where he will meet with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and other government officials, human rights representatives, and religious leaders.
But Hamid and other activists were also realistic in their expectations.
“I don’t really have high expectations that there will be tangible resolutions for human rights issues,” Hamid said.
Human Rights Watch research Andreas Harsono also said that expecting immediate results is unrealistic, but was relatively more optimistic.
He said some of the issues, such as repealing the blasphemy law, cannot be solved over the term of one administration, but is something that has to occur steadily over time. Groups remain hopeful however, for a moratorium on the death penalty.
Harsono said the High Commissioner’s influence could at the very least be key in seeing these promises fulfilled and issues addressed.
“This is not an NGO speaking – it’s an international government body. They’ve come to offer help, not judgement,” he said,
The High Commissioner has expressed concerns about human rights transgressions in Indonesia in the past, specifically conditions in Papua, the blasphemy law and capital punishment – but to no avail.
The Indonesian government stressed that Hussein will not be assessing Indonesia’s human rights performance, as this is not a monitoring visit.
Hussein will arrive in Jakarta ahead of his official visit to Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
The High Commissioner was persuaded to include Indonesia in his diplomatic mission, after the Indonesian government extended an invitation. – Rappler.com