Government must sign UN declaration on protection of human rights defenders

Source – December 1, 2004
PBHI chairperson Hendardi (Tempo)
PBHI chairperson Hendardi (Tempo)

M. Rizal Maslan, Jakarta – Following the death of renowned human rights activist Munir on September 7, non-government organisations have been urging the government to sign the United Nations 1998 Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. They are also calling on the People’s Representative Assembly (DPR) to discuss the Draft Law on the Protection of Witnesses and Victims.

This was conveyed by the Solidarity Forum for Indonesian Human Rights Defenders (Forum Solidaritas Pembela HAM Indonesia, FSPHI) at a press conference which was held at the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) secretariat in Central Jakarta on Wednesday November 1.

Attending the press conference was the coordinator of HRWG, Rafendi Djamin, the chairperson of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam), Ifdhal Kasim, the former chairperson of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Foundation (PBHI), Hendardi, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, Zoemrotin, Rita Kalibongso from the women’s organisation Mitra Perempuan and a number of other activists.

“We are asking the government to immediately sign the 1998 UN declaration on the protection of human rights defenders. This would represent a form of commitment by the government to provide protection to human rights workers following the experience of Munir’s death and [the deaths of] a number of other human rights defenders”, said Kasim.

According to Kasim, the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono must demonstrate its commitment to addressing human rights issues in Indonesia both to the general public as well as the international community, in particular in relation to the protection of human rights defenders because it has been noted that many human rights violations in Indonesia have transgressed this declaration.

Kasim gave as examples the attacks on the offices of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and PBHI, the cases in Aceh and West Papua as well as environmental, education and worker related cases. Moreover, next January 17, Indonesia will officially become the head of the UN Human Rights Commission for the 61st session.

“If the case of Munir’s murder is not solved and there are no developments on protecting human rights defenders then the Indonesian government will only embarrass itself in international forums”, he continued.

Mitra Perempuan chairperson Kalibongso added that Munir’s death must be used to generate a momentum for Indonesia to quickly move to ensure the protection of human rights defenders by immediately discussing the Draft Law on the Protection of Witnesses and Victims.

“But unfortunately, up until now the DPR has not touched on the matter. During the session in Geneva, Indonesia said repeatedly that it will soon enact legislation on the protection of witnesses and victims. It must therefore, be discussed immediately”, added Kalibongso. (aan)

[Translated by James Balowski.]