|Subject: RI Rights Groups Demand Full Acess
for UN Torture Envoy [+Asean charter/HR body]
The Jakarta Post Friday, November 9, 2007
Full access urged for UN envoy on torture
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Rights groups demanded Thursday the government provide full access to a UN special rapporteur on torture and cruelty slated to begin a visit this weekend.
The United Nations special rapporteur on torture and cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, Manfred Nowak, is scheduled to visit Indonesia from Nov. 10 to 23 at the invitation of the government.
"We hope Nowak is given a chance to gather information and to visit all the places necessary in order to verify the allegations of torture in several places across the nation," Rafendi Djamin, representative of the Working Group Against Torture, told a press conference.
He said the government would benefit from the visit because it gave the country the chance to demonstrate its commitment to improving law enforcement and eliminating all forms of torture, particularly during police questioning and in prisons.
He cited a survey recently conducted by the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute with 639 respondents from two jails and one penitentiary in the capital.
The study found 74.4 percent of inmates interviewed claimed they had been tortured by police officers during investigations, while another 4.5 percent said they had been tortured by prison guards.
Some 5.9 percent of respondents said they had been tortured by fellow inmates.
Another group member, Poengky Indarti, said if the government failed to provide access for Nowak, it would harm the country's image and its position on the United Nation Commission for Human Rights, which Indonesia has been a member of for nearly three years.
"The harm to our image could mean decreasing international support for Indonesia," she said.
She said the group would submit reports on suspected torture activities to Nowak as an alternative to government reports.
One of the group's concerns is the need to improve the country's laws, particularly the 2004 Terrorism Law, which allows police to question a terror suspect for seven days without the presence of a defense lawyer.
Indonesia has recently received numerous UN envoys on human rights issues, including United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louis Arbor and the special representative of the United Nations secretary-general on the situation of human rights defenders, Hina Jilani.
The envoys will submit their reports at the UN Human Rights Commission plenary meeting, to be held in May.
Draft ASEAN charter calls for human rights body, upholds noninterference policy
MANILA, Nov. 9 (AP): A landmark charter drafted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations calls for an agency to review the region's human rights, but upholds a noninterference policy that has shielded notorious violators like Myanmar.
The long-overdue ASEAN charter is aimed at giving the bloc a legal entity and is being prepared for Southeast Asian leaders when they gather for their annual summit in Singapore on Nov. 20 for the 40th anniversary of the 10-nation bloc's founding.
While espousing human rights and democracy, the draft charter upholds ASEAN's bedrock principle barring members from interfering in each other's domestic affairs - an edict that Myanmar has invoked to parry criticism of its dismal human rights record.
The draft charter also discourages invasions and coups, and aims to safeguard the diverse region from nuclear arms, other weapons of mass destruction and foreign interference, according to a final draft seen by The Associated Press on Friday.
"It's a visionary and inspiring document," said Filipino diplomat Rosario Manalo, who headed an ASEAN task force that drafted the charter.
With a legal personality, ASEAN can sue and be sued, and would turn into a more rules-based organization, Manalo said.
ASEAN was founded during the Cold War years as an anti-communist coalition, eventually evolving into a trade and political bloc. It consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The most contentious issue in the drafting of its charter has been the inclusion of a provision that calls for the establishment of a human rights body, which was initially opposed by Myanmar.
The military-ruled nation feared such a body could allow scrutiny of rights conditions and could "shame and blame" ASEAN member countries. It wants the body to serve just as a consultative mechanism, Myanmar's ambassador to Manila, Thaung Tun, has said.
Myanmar apparently dropped its opposition after being convinced it could negotiate limits to the human rights body's powers and objective when ASEAN diplomats tackle these issues after the charter's signing.
The draft charter said that under the regional bloc's principle of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedom, "ASEAN shall establish a human rights body."
The rights body would operate in accordance with the "terms of reference" to be set by ASEAN foreign ministers, according to the 31-page draft document.
The draft charter, which has been watered down to make it acceptable to all ASEAN members, dropped earlier recommendations to mention sanctions, including possible expulsion, in cases of serious breaches of the covenant by member countries.
The draft states that any such breaches would be referred to ASEAN heads of state "for decision."
Myanmar, also called Burma, has become a source of embarrassment to ASEAN, largely because the country's government has failed to fulfill promises to restore democracy and free political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Even fellow ASEAN members condemned the junta's recent bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that included tens of thousands of Buddhist monks.
The charter calls for the continued observance of a 10-year-old treaty banning nuclear weapons in Southeast Asia and prohibits "all other weapons of mass destruction."
It renounces aggression and threats of force. Members would be prohibited from backing any policy or activity that would threaten a country's sovereignty and political and economic stability.
It also calls for adherence to "the principles of democracy and constitutional government," which replaced a proposed provision that outrightly banned coup attempts.
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