Indonesia bars trial observer for “political” reasons

The ICJ confirmed today that a representative of its Australian section who had travelled to Indonesia to monitor the progress of a number of political trials currently underway had been denied access and deported.

Professor Spencer Zifcak, a Vice-President of the Australian Section (Victoria branch) of the International Commission of Jurists (ASICJ), travelled to Indonesia on 12 July 1997. Upon arrival at Jakarta Airport, he was stopped by immigration officials. After having been questioned by Indonesian security officials about the purpose of the visit and detained in the airport lounge for two hours, Professor Zifcak was told that he would not be permitted to enter the country and that he would be placed on the first flight back to Australia. He was not provided with a reason for the decision except that it had to do with the “political” nature of the investigation he had been requested to undertake.

Professor Zifcak presented the airport officials with his Ordre de Mission (accreditation document) and with a letter from the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia to the President of the ASICJ which stated that the relevant trials were open to the public.

The ICJ is therefore surprised by the decision taken by the Indonesian authorities not to allow Professor Zifcak to undergo his mission as planned. This decision constitutes a reversal of policy on the part of the government of a country that has accepted such trial observing missions in the past. It also contradicts what had been previously stated in the letter of the Ambassador to the President of the ASICJ.

The ICJ strongly deplores the unprecedented measure taken against an ASICJ representative in Indonesia. The decision to deny entry to a distinguished international observer sets a disturbing precedent.

This measure taken by the Indonesian government appears to indicate that international scrutiny is now unwelcome and increases concern about the fairness of the trials of persons who are in opposition to the government.

The ICJ calls upon the Government of Indonesia to instantly correct this situation and ensure that distinguished international experts are allowed again to observe trials where the Rule of Law and human rights are at stake.

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