Human Rights for Workers: Special Campaigns

Indonesia: Free Brother Muchtar Pakpahan!

AFL-CIO Executive Council Statement of February 19, 1997

It is with great pleasure that the 1997 George Meany Human Rights Award is being awarded to Muchtar Pakpahan, head of the independent Indonesia Labour Welfare Union -- better known as the SBSI. Our joy is gravely tempered, however, by the fact that Brother Pakpahan is currently on trial in Indonesia charged with subversion, a crime which can carry a death penalty if convicted. The heavy-handed campaign against Brother Pakpahan and his union culminating in the show trial now being held in Jakarta has made a mockery of the rule of law in Indonesia and any pretense that the Indonesian government has any respect for internationally-recognized worker rights.

It is illegal for a worker to join the SBSI or any union not recognized by the government in fundamental violation of the key International Labor Organization Convention on freedom of association (Convention 87). The imprisonment of several journalists last year for attempting to exercise their freedom of association rights is further testament to the fact that the Indonesian government means business. Like Brother Pakpahan, they continue to languish in prison. Teachers and civil servants have no union rights whatsoever. The trampling of internationally-recognized worker rights in the world's fourth largest nation must not continue.

The AFL-CIO reiterates its call for the removal of Indonesia's trade preferences under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program for gross violations of basic worker rights. The first step in this process would be the immediate lifting of the February 1994 suspension by the U.S. Trade Representative of the review of Indonesia's worker rights practices. In addition, we urge the Clinton Administration to suspend all OPIC programs in Indonesia and to vote against all projects submitted by Indonesia to multilateral development and investment institutions. Finally, we urge the U.S. government to suspend any active promotion of new American investment in Indonesia by the Department of Commerce and other government agencies until every worker now in prison for trade union activity is released and internationally-recognized worker rights are respected.

For our part, the AFL-CIO will intensify our international campaign to secure the release of all imprisoned trade unionists including Brother Pakpahan in coordination with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the international human rights community and others. We look forward to the day when Muchtar Pakpahan will be free to travel to the United States to receive in person the 1997 George Meany Human Rights Award.

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