Indonesia has proven itself as a role model for other countries in the ASEAN region through its dedication in promoting domestic and regional human rights, Indonesia’s representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), Rafendi Djamin, said during the 48th ASEAN Ministers Meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 3 to 6.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi has previously vouched for improving the scope and role of the AICHR in doing more for regional human rights. One suggestion Retno gave was to allow the AIHCR to process and accept individual human rights complaints, which he said would establish the commission as a more serious human rights body.

“What needs to be strengthened is the protection mechanism for human rights in ASEAN. Protection means being able to process individual complaints and investigating them, maybe even taking cases
to court.

“AIHCR doesn’t have that kind of power yet, therefore that is what Mrs.Retno meant by strengthening it,” Rafendi told the Jakarta Post on the sidelines of an ASEAN event on juvenile justice in the region on Thursday.

He explained that human rights are a “relatively new” priority in ASEAN, only gaining meaningful traction when the ASEAN Charter was signed by all the member states in 2008. He also said that there has been a push from Indonesia to establish a proper human rights body within the ASEAN Secretariat.

Because human rights has been now officially considered an ASEAN regional commitment, any attempts to further promote human rights in the member states should not be interpreted as interfering with domestic issues, Rafendi added.

“If we are able to discuss human rights issues in larger stages such as the United Nations, then why can’t we also discuss it in a smaller setting with countries who are familiar with each other’s cultures and therefore are able to give more constructive criticism?” he said.

Some of Indonesia’s efforts toward upholding human rights in the region can be seen in its performance in such fields such as child protection and juvenile justice.

In a report issued by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law on the state of juvenile justice in ASEAN member states, Indonesia was awarded a significantly better rating that any other ASEAN states, with the number of juveniles imprisoned halfed in the last three years.

“Since adopting the 2012 Law on Juvenile Justice, there has been a significant reduction in the number of juveniles imprisoned in Indonesia, from 6,000 in 2012 to only about 3,000 in 2015. This is because the authorities began to adopt diversion measures: Not sending minors directly to jail but simply returning them home to their parents. This is an extraordinary feat,” independent researcher Indah Amaritasari told the Post at the event. She added that examples such as this contribute to Indonesia’s good human rights
record in the region.

“I once talked to the director general of the Philippine human rights commission and they commented that they were impressed by Indonesia’s progress, particularly on juvenile justice, even though we were the ones that learned from the Philippines. This stresses the importance of sharing information [among fellow nations],” she said. –Dylan Amirio, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

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