Indonesia's human rights 'fall short'

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As thousands of people joined rallies across the country to mark International Human Rights Day on Thursday, human rights watchdogs announced that the state still falls short in delivering basic rights.

In Jakarta, over 1,000 rights activists from various civil groups gathered in front of the Presidential Palace, demanding President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration fulfill basic human rights, including worker protection and access to health and education for the poor.

Organizer of the protests, Aan Bashari, said similar rallies were held in 27 cities across the country.

The coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Usman Hamid, who participated in the rally, said that up to the beginning of his second term, Yudhoyono had failed to live up to his promises to provide basic rights.

He said the administration's failure to eradicate corruption has dampened the state's ability to raise people's welfare.

"Clashes between people and officials continue to occur across the country. In all of the cases, the officials use oppressive methods, and the people become victims. Not only do they lose their land, but [quite often] their lives," he said.

Last week's shooting - where police opened fire on farmers fighting over land with state plantation firm PTPN VII in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra - highlighted instances of officials pursuing state interests at the expense of the people, Usman said.

He also underlined the failure of Yudhoyono to keep his promise to open cases of past human rights abuses, including the murder of rights campaigner Munir Said Thalib, the Trisakti incidents, the mass killings in Talangsari and a number of extrajudicial killings in Papua.

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas Ham), which commemorated International Human Rights Day separately at its office, said complaints of human rights violations filed to the commission increased to 4,690 this year, up from 4,500 last year.

Komnas Ham chairman Ifdhal Kasim said many cases related to abuse of power in the police force.

Komnas Ham also received many complaints from minority religious groups, which faced discrimination and violence.

Meanwhile, the Asian Human Rights Commission said in a release that much had been achieved by Indonesia, but there was also not much to applaud given the ongoing tortures, extra-judicial killings, arrests of rights activists and the freedom that multinational mining and plantation corporations enjoy within the country's legal framework after 10 years of reform.

"Impunity is not only a problem of the past, [it] also happens today. Accountability starts where impunity ends, and this goal remains a distant dream at present," it said.

Setara Institute executive director Hendardi urged Yudhoyono to include the human rights principles of freedom of expression and protection of minority religious groups in his development strategies.