Oct 15, 2012

Indonesia - Indonesia ‘Wasted’ Chance to Push Human Rights in Asean Nations

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Indonesia has failed to use its influence to urge other Southeast Asian countries to improve their own commitments to upholding human rights, a leading watchdog says.

Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said in a statement on Sunday that despite chairing the rights commission of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations from 2009 to 2012, Jakarta has been reluctant to use its influence to petition for greater protection of rights.

Most notably, he said, Indonesia has failed to take a “productive stance” on abuses against the minority Rohingya community in Myanmar.

He said this silence went against the Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s own ambitions of contributing to the democratization process in Myanmar.

“Indonesia’s position as the chair of the Asean Human Rights Commission has not yet been put to use in strengthening commitments of other members [and] pushing for progress on human rights,” Haris said.

“Indonesia’s strength in Asean and its domestic democracy have also not been used to contribute to meaningful change for human rights in Asean.”

He added that the Indonesian delegation to the rights commission has the potential to lobby for greater awareness and respect for human rights across the region, lauding the team as professional, transparent and competent.

“To date, the governments of Indonesia and Thailand are the only ones who allow open public participation in nominating candidates to the Asean rights commission,” he said.

“We need to maintain this system of open participation and even boost its quality so that Indonesia can serve as an example for the other countries in Asean. Ultimately, we hope all other countries in the region will practice the openness now shown by Indonesia.”

Indonesia’s representative to the rights commission, Rafendi Djamin, was appointed in 2009 and is an activist from the Human Rights Working Group.

With the inaugural batch of commissioners set to end their three-year-terms on Oct. 23, the governments of the 10 Asean member states are preparing to select new representatives.

Haris highlighted greater transparency as something new commissioners should be committed to spearheading. He also stressed the need for more efforts to nudge other countries toward a greater commitment to upholding human rights.

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