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Report Criticizes Indonesia for 2001 Human Rights Abuses - 2002-01-18


Human Rights Watch in New York says Indonesia's government has failed to address human rights abuses in the country. Rights advocates expect little improvement in the situation this year.

The report says the Indonesia government made no serious effort to stop human rights abuses last year. It says the number of political prisoners rose in 2001, with many activists being charged with spreading hatred toward the government, an offense associated with the autocratic government of former President Suharto.

The report notes rising human rights abuses in Aceh and West Papua provinces, where there are separatist movements, and in the Malukus and Central Sulawesi, where religious violence has claimed thousands of lives. The report also criticizes the lack of judicial reform and President Megawati Sukarnoputri's appointment of Muhammad Abdurachman to attorney general. It says Mr. Abdurachman is a career prosecutor known for obstructing human rights cases.

The report says the government is not interested in prosecuting those responsible for human rights abuses, which are mostly linked to the military.

Political analyst Andi Mallarangeng, who is also senior adviser to the private group Partnership for Governance Reform, says the government is more interested in consolidating power by appeasing the military and rival political parties. He said protecting human rights remains low on its agenda. "The problem is that human rights is not one of the most important priorities of the government right now. There are other political priorities or even political dealings that are always more dominant in the way the government deals with human rights abuses," he said. Mr. Mallarangeng says that, without real leadership, it is unlikely the human rights situation in the country will improve this year.

"When you are a leader, then you show vision; you explain your vision to the people and mobilize support from the people because the people believe in your vision. We don't see that vision. We don't see that effort from the government to mobilize the support in terms [that] let the people believe in that vision. What we see is just business as usual. The president, the ministers, they talk about things and go on," he said.

Indonesia is struggling to reform itself politically and economically. Mrs. Megawati rose to power after Parliament ousted former president Abdurrahman Wahid in July for his erratic and incompetent 21-month rule.

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