Indonesia’s Role in UN Human Rights Council

May 30th, 2006, in News, Opinion, by

On 9 May, 2006 the UN General Assembly elected Indonesia along with 46 other nations to the Human Rights council. There is also the possibility that Indonesia will be elected to the Security Council in November 2006, says guest writer Sarawut Pratoomraj.

"The UN will elect new non-permanent members of its Security Council in November. Our first target of becoming a member of Human Rights Council has been achieved. Now, we hope we can achieve our second target."

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said after a ministerial meeting of Developing Eight (D-8) countries in Nusa Dua, Bali. (The Jakarta Post 13 May,2006.)

The United Nations Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, is a new body of the UN to replace the old UN Commission on Human Rights and assume its role and responsibilities. In summary, the objectives of Human Rights Council are to help member states meet their human rights obligations through dialogue, capacity building, and technical assistance. The Council also makes recommendations to the General Assembly for further development of international law in the field of human rights.

Member states are elected for three year terms. They would not be eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms. In the structure of the UN there are 6 main organs to implement and carry out its work and activities namely, the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, The International Court of Justice and Secretariat. The Human Rights Council is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, which it directly accountable to the membership of the United Nations.

Indonesia, among others, was one of the key countries in the establishment of ASEAN in 1967 and after that Indonesia played a leadership role in the organisations foreign policy. The membership of the UN Human Rights Council and coming non-permanent membership of the Security Council will show international recognition of the country's efforts to implement human rights principles and its active role in international fora.

Indonesia in the New Order regime under Soeharto was watched by the international community for numerous most human rights violations. Every year the UN Commission on Human Rights conference in Geneva reported on the Human Rights situation in Indonesia, looking at matters such as the East Timor, West Papua, political disappearances, torture, police and military brutality etc.

At the same time Soeharto tried to play international politicc by ratifying two international human rights laws, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990 and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1994.

The establishment of The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in 1993 can be said to have come from pressure by the international community and the United Nations. However, the Komnas HAM is criticized by the international community in that it is not independent of the government because it was established by a Presidential Decree and the Commissioner was appointed by Presidential order. It was impossible that Soeharto would select a Commissioner who would be take a pro active role in human rights issues to check and balance his power. (In 1999 ,under the Act No.39/1999 ,Komnas HAM was granted more power and independent from the President).

In any case after Soeharto fell the Indonesian government during the Reformasi period ratified more international human rights law; the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1999.

During the recent period under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a letter was submitted to the UN for accession to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). So now in the international view Indonesia has already ratified six major international human rights law, more than any country in ASEAN.

Since Indonesia has ratified the six major human rights laws, there are still human rights violations every day. Under the international human rights law, Indonesia has obligations to make its domestic law match what it has agreed to in international law provisions, step by step.

Membership of the UN Human Rights Council and possibly non-permanent membership of the Security Council are important roles for Indonesia. We must keep our eyes on this task in the near future to follow what Hassan said. Improvement in domestic human rights laws would be one of the most important indicators in judging whether Indonesia succeeds in its new role.


Sarawut Pratoomraj is a lawyer and human rights activist from Thailand: Senior API Fellow 2005-2006 visiting Jakarta to conduct research entitled "The Effective Role of Komnas Ham in Human Rights Education".

Contact : tuactive@yahoo.com


One Comment on “Indonesia’s Role in UN Human Rights Council”

  1. avatar Dragonwall says:

    I guess I miss this all this while. Mr Pratoomraj. Now how do you fare Indonesia’s role in UN on Human Rights when they are a country that were as follows:

    1. Most of the citizens since the Dutch colonial time were being discriminated and
    segregated and none whomsoever seemed to lay a hand otherwise.
    2. When Soeharto swept into power they continue thei discrimination against the
    minorities, though that were their good time when no one seemed to care amidst
    corruption where money talked their way into smooth crusing.
    3. Now the law seemed to have put into force a new form of discrimination even further
    discriminating the minorities.

    How do you see on this when a country that have been for centuries discriminating the
    minorities and the world just passed by while those in Indonesian were crying out loud.

    Does United Nation really held Human Rights in high esteem? What will they do if they find that those who cause and subject the Indonesian minorities to discrimination to be guilty of, should they be punish, by whom? and where? The International Court of Justice! or at the UN?
    How will then justice be done? Who in the UN will help?

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