With great interest I noticed the latest special edition of the INFID newsletter. In his lead article titled "UN Reform, the USA, and Our Position" the director of this big international network of NGOs concerned with Indonesia (INFID stands for International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development) deals at some length with the need to reform the UN. In particular, he mentions the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) as an outstanding example, claiming that "aside from the problem of international security, the UN is expected to play a bigger role in the advancement of HR. This is because, recently, the UN HR Commission that is based in Geneva, Swiss is increasingly losing its relevance. The countries accused of violating human rights are mutually protecting one another to avoid being reprimanded by the commission. At present, the UN HR Commission is composed of 53 countries that are selected based on their regional extent. Last year, the expert team formed by the UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, reported that the integrity and authority of the commission declined, many of the countries are perpetrators and because of this, they tend to become mute against HR violations. These countries formed an alliance to avoid being reprimanded by the UN on HR violations." A rather correct evaluation of the deficiencies observed at the UNHRC.
The author then continues with accusations against unilateralism, double standards and human rights violations perpetrated by the United States in Guantanamo. Nothing wrong with that. One could mention even more examples of severe human rights violations perpetrated by the US, a.o. in Iraq (Abu Ghraib etc.).
But wouldn't people expect a leading NGO network critical on Indonesia primarily to deal with the human right situation and double standards in exactly that country, rather than putting the finger on the common enemy named "the ugly American"? The points being criticized by INFID's director can be read in hundreds and thousands of contributions all over the world, including mainstream US media. The special contribution being expected by an NGO network from Indonesia would be a critical approach towards Indonesia's own behaviour in these matters. If the author criticizes the performance of the UNHRC, shouldn't he at least mention that this year his own country, Indonesia, is chairing the Commission?
The gross violations of human rights perpetrated in East Timor in 1999 by pro-Indonesian militias supervised and supported by the Indonesian military have been on the agenda of the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) more than once. In Article 16 of the Security Council Resolution 1272 (1999) of October 25, 1999 1, which established the mandate of UNTAET (United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor), the Security Council requested that the persons responsible for the atrocities should be brought to justice. Immediately after the blood bath in September 1999 the UNCHR held a special session - the fourth in the history of the Commission - and adopted a resolution requesting the Secretary General (SG) to establish an International Commission of Inquiry. This Commission recommended that the extensive violence merits the establishment of an international tribunal.
Repeatedly, the Government of Indonesia has committed itself, vis-à-vis the UNCHR, to bring those responsible to justice. In the meantime, in almost all the cases, which had been brought before the ad hoc Human Rights Court in Jakarta (involving a total of only 18 defendants), a final verdict has been issued. Of the six defendants who had been convicted, only the former Governor of East Timor, Abilio Soares, had to spend a few weeks in prison, before the Supreme Court overturned his sentence and he himself was acquitted. The 10- year prison term handed down to the militia leader Eurico Guterres has already been halved; his trial is the only one still continuing, whereby, pending appeal, Guterres remains free. Major General Adam Damiri, the highest-ranking Indonesian military officer among the defendants, was sentenced to three years in prison after his trial in the court of first instance; his conviction has also been overturned, with the court of last instance stipulating his acquittal. The fact that some of the accused were actually convicted is attributable to the courage and competence of a handful of judges who applied the law despite the obvious lack of strategy on part of the prosecution. Next to the low turnout of convictions, the judgments of the Jakarta Court do not reflect the actual nature of the crimes committed and the responsibility of the military. The crimes are portrayed as being part of spontaneously erupted violence between two rival groups of society in East Timor. The de facto control of the TNI over the militias was not addressed during the trials.
The Prosecution failed to indict some of the most prominent suspects such as General Wiranto, former Minister of Defence and Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia), and Joao Tavares, the former Commander-in-Chief of the militias.
In an Aide Memoire presented to the German delegation at the UNCHR, Watch Indonesia! concluded in January 2005: "This culture of impunity, of which this case is a powerful illustration, is not only a serious violation of human rights. By acquiescing to such blatant disregard for decisions of the Security Council and recommendations of the UNCHR, the credibility of the UN itself is also at stake."
The director of INFID mentions the UN Secretary General's efforts to form a Commission of Experts to evaluate the UNHCHR. However, another Commission of Experts formed by the Secretary Genaral, i.e. an expert commission to "Review the Prosecution of Serious Violations of Human Rights in Timor-Leste (the then East Timor) in 1999" remains unmentioned by the author.
In a joint letter Watch Inonesia! and a couple of other international organisations wrote: "Based on the experts' report and on our own experience, it is impossible not to conclude that the main factor behind the limited progress in bringing to justice those most responsible for the atrocities committed in East Timor in 1999 is the intransigence of the Indonesian authorities in the face of their international legal obligations. The United Nations decided in 2000 not to establish an international tribunal to try the crimes committed because it hoped that Indonesia would comply with its obligation to punish those responsible. That hope was betrayed and in fact Indonesia's lack of cooperation undermined the ability of the Serious Crimes Unit to secure the custody of more than 75% of the persons it indicted, including those most responsible for orchestrating the international crimes that took place in 1999. The sham trials conducted in Jakarta before the ad hoc Court of Human Rights have not resulted in a single perpetrator serving a sentence."
I'm very puzzled to read a lot of well-based America-bashing, but not a single word on Indonesia in our director's contribution.
Board Member of INFID
Please visit http://www.watchindonesia.org for more information.
(currently down when tested, AF)
AFTER World War II, the initiators for the establishment of the UN agreed to „Free humanity from being a hostage of war wherein within a short period of time has twice brought great misery to humanity.“ Such is the first sentence of the UN Charter that was agreed in the conference in San Francisco on June 1945, a logical consequence after the great destruction on life, property, and culture as a consequence of the war. The irony here is that, six weeks after the said UN agreement was signed, the US dropped an atom bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Now, there is a broad agreement that the UN should be reformed. UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, proposed a comprehensive reformation package that concerns 3 main pillars, namely; freedom from want, freedom from fear, and freedom to live with dignity. This proposed comprehensive reformation is closely related to the structure and mechanism of the UN that are no longer in accordance with the reality of global politics at present. The problems that beset the UN, apart from being many, they are also complex, for example, what is the attitude of the UN on the unilateralism challenge of the US, and the conglomeration of different special and extra organizations of the UN that is getting bigger and a problem itself? Including the effectiveness of the UN in mobilizing - and, if necessary „forcing“ - the majority of its members to prioritize the security of peace, strengthen HR, reduce poverty, and protect global environment.
The UN Security Council that is only composed of 5 member countries has clearly denied the constellation of world power in the 21st century. More than this, the new SC should immediately proposed a policy to oppose the unilateralism of any country while allow the use of power of UN troops in genocide cases. Aside from the problem of international security, the UN is expected to play a bigger role in the advancement of HR. This is because, recently, the UN HR Commission that is based in Geneva, Swiss is increasingly losing its relevance. The countries accused of violating human rights are mutually protecting one another to avoid being reprimanded by the commission.
At present, the UN HR Commission is composed of 53 countries that are selected based on their regional extent. Last year, the expert team formed by the UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, reported that the integrity and authority of the commission declined, many of the countries are perpetrators and because of this, they tend to become mute against HR violations. These countries formed an alliance to avoid being reprimanded by the UN on HR violations.
Many parties are demanding that in the future, the regimes that have structurally committed human rights violations should no longer occupy a seat in the commission. In the future, according to the Head of Staff of the UN General Secretariat, Mark Malloch Brown, this commission should only be composed of member countries that respect human rights; only the people who favour and originated from countries that respect human rights should have the opportunity to occupy a seat in this commission.
This is based on the analysis of various international HR institutions. One of the problems of the commission is that many of its member countries are not acting according to the objectives of the commission; they are actually undermining all serious initiatives to advance human rights according to Kenneth Roth, Director, Human Rights Watch. Actually, with its majority vote, the commission can decide to specially observe the country that is strongly suspected of committing gross and largescale human rights violations. This happened to Afghanistan, Burundi, Belarus, Cambodia, Cuba, Haiti, Liberia, North Korea, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. If gross human rights violations occurred, the commission will reprimand the concerned country. Some countries are not happy if they are openly reprimanded while most of the countries that are reprimanded feel that they don't have to react.
Several HR organizations are also pushing for an action against the US because of its bad behaviour towards those who are accused of committing acts of terror in the prison of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. According to Kenneth Roth, „It is true that America is not the worst human rights violator, but it is clear that it she is the most influential. The systematic torturing of the prisoners in Guantánamo is a bad example and it undermines the norms that they actually want to maintain. Other countries will certainly point out that the UN HR Commission is following a double standard is America is not reprimanded“.
Come mid-September, around 170 head of states are planning to attend the World Millennium Summit +5. They will discuss the result of the ambitious agreements and promises they made five years ago. However, it is possible that the main obstacle to the reformation of the UN that is one of the factors for the attainment of the agreement on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is the US. The proposal of the US on the reformation package of the UN that was submitted during the last minute threatens the agreements on the MDGs that were already agreed by the head of states of the world five years ago. This rejection is very strong in connection to the target that was determined to rich countries, which is, to contribute at least 0.7 percent of their GDP to developing countries, at the latest, on 2015. In 2004, the US only donated 0.16 percent of her GNP to international assistance. Aside from this, the US also proposed the elimination of the point concerning the call to all the citizens of the world to immediately act to solve global warming. It is clear that the document on the proposed changes submitted by the US is merely based on the interest of the US.
About five decades ago, a romance book written by Lederer and Burdick entitled „The Ugly American“ was published. This book that immediately became a bestseller attempted to explain to the citizens of the United States of America the bad image of their country. This is because, they say that, everywhere, the US is spreading the American way of life and the domination of her economy without considering that other countries have values that are different and they also want a way of life that is also different. In one of the campaigns for the election of the President of the US, the said romance was raised by one of the presidential candidates, he said that, „If we do not want to be considered as „ugly Americans“ again, we should stop telling the world: „We did this and you should also do this.“ Apparently, that candidate called George W. Bush is already enlightened. However, after being elected as President, all these were forgotten. All the countries in the world should not only follow the US model; their struggle should also be the same with the US; those who do not agree with the attitude of the US towards her war against terrorists are automatically considered as opponents. As a whole, the attitude of the UN towards the „challenge of the US“ is the most important factor in terms of the credibility of this institution of countries.
Going back to our beloved country, what is our contribution to the reformation of the UN? Apparently, although Indonesia is a big country in terms of population and land area, our role is hardly visible. More seldom than not, Indonesia is even trapped in a dilemma. When we were supported by the „block“ of China so that we can be a non-permanent member of the UN SC for example, Indonesia was anxious that she will be „against“ the US. The statement of the government is often normative or defensive. The issue of the reformation of the UN SC has obscured the other important issues related to the reformation of the UN. Unfortunately, the attitude of Indonesia government to the three main pillars of the reformation of the UN that requires the attainment of the MDGs on the time is not yet clear.
*) Executive Director, INFID
(International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development)
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