Friday, April 27, 2012

Build Culture of Prevention, Ratify Convention on Enforced Disappearance

Build Culture of Prevention,
Ratify Convention on Enforced Disappearance

Delivering a speech before the High-Level Segment of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations on February 28, 2012, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said that Indonesia is committed to “the pursuit of human rights and democracy”, and that it is “A commitment that is total and absolute, despite of all the challenges that may be facing us”.

In the same speech, Minister Natalegawa emphasized on the importance of developing a strong culture of prevention. He said of ”A culture that prevents abuses from being perpetrated in the first place. A culture that is nurtured through international norms setting as well as homegrown national processes”.

For this particular purpose of prevention, Minister Natalegawa said in the last part of speech, “This year we expect to make significant progress in the ratification process of some important instruments. These include… the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.”

I was very excited after reading the speech sent a day later by a friend working at an international human rights NGO in Geneva. I really enjoyed reading the seven-page long statement. It was a very well formulated statement with good and strong dictions so that people could hardly not to believe. I even imagined that there might be applause or ovation in between some of the paragraphs as Minister Natalegawa spelled them out. At least, that is based on my experience in attending sessions of Human Rights Council of the United Nations at the UN Office in Geneva when there are impressive speeches.

My point here is that I am happy and do appreciate the commitment on human rights of the Indonesian government as expressed by Minister Natalegawa. I further urge and put high hopes that these total and absolute commitments be translated into concrete actions, as Minister Natalegawa terms it.

Ratification this year
The promise to ratify the Convention Against Enforced Disappearance was not only expressed last month in the speech of Minister Natalegawa before the United Nations. Back in March 2007, Hamid Awaluddin the then Minister of Law and Human Rights also made the promise in the same High-Level Segment of the UN Human Rights Council that Indoensia will sign it. The ratification of the Convention on Enforced Disappearance then has been a long time commitment of the Indonesian government.

The ratification and implementation of the convention has also been one of the common calls by human rights community, particlarly victims group in Indonesia after the issuance of the recommendations of Parliament (DPR) to the President in September 2009 on the cases of abduction and disappearances of pro democracy activists in 1997-1998. One of the four recommendations of the Parliament explicitely says that it recommends the government to ratify the Conventiuon on Enforced Disappearances for the purpose of preventing the cases from happening again.

Despite the victims disappointment on the absence of follow up on many human rights agenda, including on the recommendations of the parliament, we give our appreciation when in September 27, 2010 the government signed the Convention on Enforced Disapperaances in a Treaty Event in UN Office in New York. It indeed is an initial but essential step towards the eventual ratification of the said convention. We further are happy that the 3rd National Action Plan on Human Rights 2011-2014 also mentions that the Convention on Enforced Disappearance will be ratified within the years.

With this, we are eager to be the witness that the promised of Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa before the international prestigious forum of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations that Indonesia will ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearance will be fulfilled.

Comprehensive approach
The ratification of the Convention on Enforced Disappearance is not everything. But it is something to prove the seriousness of the government amidst the many unfulfilled promises of the government on human rights. It could function as an entry point into the implementation of other bigger human rights commitments.

As a mechanism of prevention, ratification of the convention is the least and minimum form of commitment because isn’t it our common commitment in this transition to democracy that there should be no more gross violation of human rights?

In a context where the government does not want to “create political noise” when asked to deal with gross violation of human rights in the past, ratification of the Convention should find its smooth way as it orients the future. This has been indicated by the fact that the government is done with the drafting of the Academic Paper and Draft Law on the Ratification so that people can expect that very soon all the documents of ratification be handed over to the Parliament for adoption.

However, preventive measure can not be achieved solely by producing new legislation or ratifying international treaty. There should also be corective measures which are based on past mistakes. In the context of transition from authoritarian to democracy, making sure that abusive practices of government are not to be repeated is possible only if public are told and be aware of what went wrong in the past, that the most responsible persons be held accountable and the damages that the victims experienced be repaired (Priscilla Hayner, 2011).

Ratifying Convention on Enforced Disappearance for the purpose of prevention will have its perfection if followed by above mentioned comprehensive approach. Only then, the call of not to repeat the crimes as put in the title of the reports of several truth commissions such as “Nunca Mas” in Argentina and Brazil and “Chega!” in Timor-Leste will have its ultimate effectiveness. When that is the case, the much criticized statement of President Yudhoyono who is happy that “there is no more gross violation of human rights” during my administration” will have its proper context.

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