Jakarta — Indonesia expressed its commitment to address challenges that hamper its efforts to improve and protect human rights at home, during the 27th session of the United Nations Universal Period Review in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday (05/05). While the country was praised for the improvements it has made on human rights, such as the ratification of various international conventions, the delegations of several countries raised their concerns and recommended that Indonesia should do more. Indonesia accepted 150 of the 225 recommendations it received from 101 delegations during the review, while undertaking to examine the remainder. The country is expected to state its position on the pending recommendations by no later than September, during the 36th session of the Human Rights Council. The recommendations touched on several issues, including the abolition of the death penalty, preventing discrimination against religious minorities, ensuring the right to freedom of expression, repealing existing laws on blasphemy and promoting women’s rights and the rights of vulnerable groups. Capital punishment Dozens of countries, including Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom, criticized Indonesia for its continued use of capital punishment for drug offenders and the perpetrators of major crimes, such as murder and terrorism. During Indonesia’s review on Wednesday, Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly, who led the Indonesian delegation along with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, said the “death penalty is still part of Indonesia’s positive law.” “[…] It is our conviction that the rights of the offender must always be weighed against the rights of the victims, their families and the broader rights of their community to live in peace and security, as stipulated in our constitution,” Yasonna said. He added that the firm action by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration against drug offenders is based on the fact that narcotics remain among the top-three on the list of major causes of death for the Indonesian youth. Death penalty has never been removed from Indonesian law, and that Jokowi is just fast-forwarding the process of executing those already convicted for drugs-related crimes. Furthermore, the minister said Indonesia has always applied necessary safeguards based on international standards, which are in accordance with a strict due process of law. He added that Indonesia’s current practice of capital punishment does not contravene any international conventions. Human rights in Papua Several countries also brought up the issue of human rights in Papua, voicing concern about alleged abuses and a lack of access by journalists to the area, despite the country recently having allowed foreign journalist to visit Papua for the first time in 70 years. This New Zealand delegation recommended that Indonesia must “ensure human rights obligations in Papua are upheld, respected and promoted, including freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and the rights of women and minorities.” Australia, meanwhile, recommended that Indonesia should “finalize the investigation of all human rights cases in Papua.” In her response, Foreign Minister Retno said Papua is an integral part of Indonesia. Radio New Zealand reported on Saturday that several Pacific island nations, including Vanuatu, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands, issued a joint statement condemning Indonesia’s human rights violations in West Papua, including crimes against humanity, at a council of ministers meeting of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). The coalition called for a resolution, which includes support of the right of West Papuan political self-determination. In March, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in response to a question by a member of parliament that the country’s regular engagements with Indonesia “have not revealed any information to support assertions of genocide in Papua.” The contradictory reports reveal that Indonesia has reason to consider Mexico’s recommendation, which said the archipelago nation should “extend an invitation to the special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to visit Indonesia, including Papua.” Addressing issues related to access for foreign journalists, Retno said procedures have been simplified for journalists applying to visit Papua, and access has “significantly increased” to 41 percent in 2015 from the year before. “Until the end of April 2017, we have received eight applications from journalists to visit Papua and all applications have been granted,” Retno said.