Letter: Irony of human rights workshop

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The Independent Online
Sir: On Tuesday (26 January) a UN-sponsored Asia-Pacific workshop on human rights begins in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. It will be opened by the President, General Suharto, who came to power in 1965 in a wave of army- inspired killings.

It is ironic that the UN Centre for Human Rights should have decided to hold a workshop in a country that has one of the world's worst human rights records.

The continuing detention, torture and extra-judicial killings in Aceh, West Papua and occupied East Timor are clear evidence of the systematic abuse of human rights by the Indonesian government.

Indonesia is ruled by an authoritarian and undemocratic regime, where the exercise of basic freedoms of assembly, association and expression is regarded as subversive.

We are aware of concerted action on the part of many repressive Asian governments to undermine the universality of basic human rights as enshrined in international covenants and to assert the interests of the state over and above the rights of individuals and minorities.

The Jakarta workshop must not be allowed to give ideological legitimacy to the attempts of repressive and dictatorial governments to advance their own interests at the expense of individual rights and aspirations towards democracy.

Yours faithfully,


The British Coalition

for East Timor

London, E1

25 January