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Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Volume II

Komnas HAM and Human Rights Education*

Saafroedin Bahar

Human rights education (HRE) and promotion in Indonesia started long before the establishment of the Komnas HAM in 1993. The National Seminar on Human Rights held in December 1995 in Semarang acknowledged that for thousands of years major religions have preached the inherent dignity of human beings as creatures of God. The proceedings of the discussions by the Founding Fathers in 1945 of the ideological basis of human rights have been read since their publication in 1959. Prominent members of the national elite and their staffs attended two regional seminars on human rights in the early 1990s initiated by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Some law departments of state universities have offered human rights courses for some years now. Military officers study humanitarian law, which contains the basic principles of human rights in an armed conflict situation. International allegations of human rights violations in Indonesia have brought attention to the corpus of human rights instruments being violated. Human rights activists have published books, articles and leaflets. And the mass media have exposed the public to the latest trends in world affairs: respect for human rights, protection of the environment and democratization. The Indonesian state philosophy, Pancasila, contains the principles of a just and civilized society.

Komnas HAM adopts two interrelated methods in teaching and promoting human rights in the indirect and the direct methods.

The Indirect Method

The indirect method consists of accommodating and enhancing the impact of programs of other institutions. In this category belong the following:

* Press interviews. Members of Komnas HAM are regularly interviewed by both print and electronic media.

* News of local visits and mediation by Komnas HAM Teams. Members of the Sub-Commission on Monitoring often visit places where human rights violations occur, mostly by invitation from one of the parties to the conflict. They usually offer to mediate, and make the parties aware of the existence of human rights principles.

* Speeches and papers presented at seminars held by other organizations. Many organizations are interested in the latest developments in human rights and invite Komnas HAM members to speak at their meetings, which usually draw media attention. The speeches and papers are compiled and edited for publication.

* This article originally appeared in the report of the “Workshop on Human Rights Education and National Institutions” held in Jakarta, Indonesia, and organized by the Komnas HAM, Canadian Human Rights Foundation, Quebec Commission for Human Rights and Youth Rights, and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Montreal-Jakarta, 1997.

* Suggestions to schools to adopt human rights courses in their curricula. Meetings have been held with high-ranking officials of the Department of Education and Culture for possible inclusion of human rights subjects in school curricula. More meetings are needed since some teachers think the curricula is already too heavy.

* Endorsement of the activities of other organizations. Komnas HAM officially endorsed the manual on human rights for common soldiers in the Pancasila Military Command in West Irian and suggested to the Armed Forces Commander that the document be officially adopted for wider usage in the Armed Forces.

* Individual activities. Komnas HAM members are active in other institutions, as members of Parliament, for example, or of the bureaucracy, and may disseminate information, suggestions and ideas on human rights in their routine activities.

The Direct Method

The direct method consists of Komnas HAM programs designed to enhance awareness of human rights, both within the government and among the public. In this category belong the following:

* Announcements to the general public. Komnas HAM official statements explain specific human rights violations to make the public aware of human rights concepts.

* Submission of information, analyses and suggestions to the President. The President has always paid serious attention to information, analyses and suggestions submitted by Komnas HAM. A copy of the President's instructions, usually signed by the Minister's Secretary of States, is usually sent to Komnas HAM.

* National seminars and workshops on human rights. In 1995 and 1996, Komnas HAM initiated two national seminars and workshops on human rights. The 1995 national seminar dealt with the cultural aspects of human rights in Indonesia. The 1996 workshop, held in cooperation with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Lund University, Sweden, compared protection of human rights in the advanced and developing countries. Representatives from various sectors of Indonesian society participated.

* Publications, both individual and official. Members of Komnas HAM regularly publish articles on human rights. Official publications consist of leaflets, annual reports, and seminar and workshops proceedings. Leaflets are in Indonesian and in English. Two annual reports, also in Indonesian and in English, have been published. Proceedings of the 1995 seminar have already been edited and are ready for publication. Proceedings of the 1996 workshop are still being edited. Translations of United Nations publications such as the Vienna Declaration of 1993 are being prepared for publication. Unfortunately, many Indonesians are not enthusiastic about reading serious books.

* Library and bookshop. With books donated by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Sweden and librarian training by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Komnas HAM now has a fine library of foreign human rights books. Komnas HAM staff members clip relevant news articles from Indonesian newspapers and magazines. The Sub-Commission on Education and Information suggests that Komnas HAM set up a small bookshop in its compound to sell human rights publications to the public.

* Internet homepage. The latest effort to reach the public is the establishment of the Komnas HAM homepage on the Internet. But because not all Komnas HAM members are familiar with this medium and because the staff is inexperienced, Komnas HAM has not been able to exploit the full potential of this medium. The support of a full-time professional staff will enhance the effectiveness of this medium, particularly when the government provides telecommunication facilities to the far-flung islands.

* "Roving seminars." Komnas HAM intends to hold seminars in selected cities in Indonesia, in the hope that seminar participants will later help promote human rights.

* TV talk shows. Komnas HAM may cooperate with state and private television stations to hold talk shows on human rights issues.

*This article orginally appeared in the report of the "Workshop on Human Rights Education and National Institutions" held in Jakarta, Indoenisa, and organized by the Komnas HAM, Canadian Human Rights Foundation, Quebec Commission for Human rights and Youth Rights, and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Montreal-Jakarta, 1997.


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