Putri Maha Lima is the Director of Policy, Education and Publicity at the Secretariat of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) in Jakarta, Indonesia. Before joining AIPA, she was a Program Coordinator for Regional Cooperation for a German political foundation based in Indonesia and was also nominated by UNICEF to participate in Leiden University’s Short Course on Children’s Rights. Ms. Maha Lima attended AIPR’s Raphael Lemkin Global Seminar in Poland in 2017.
Which actions, policies, and/or approaches do you feel are the most effective in the long-term prevention of mass atrocities?
Legal frameworks are, for me, the most effective in the long-term prevention of mass atrocities. Genocide and mass atrocities are sensitive issues for the ASEAN region. However, as a person who works with parliaments of 10 ASEAN Member States, I would say that developing a legal framework in preventing genocide and mass atrocities might not be easy, but it is possible. The very first step and the most sustainable one would be educating parliamentarians on the concept of genocide and mass atrocity by using a historical approach.
Further, engaging parliamentarians in an open dialogue with the involvement of experts should be effective; not only to introduce international legal standards and learn from each other’s ideas on the prevention of mass atrocities, but also to identify the shared challenges that they face. From there, it would be easier for parliamentarians to identify the key legal interventions to be undertaken in the region and/or their respective countries to effectively prevent mass atrocities.
What can you tell us about the role of parliamentarians in atrocity prevention? How can they best support the work of executive branch officials in prevention?
Parliamentarians are in crucial position related to law and policy-making processes. They play a central role in developing a national and/or regional legal framework addressing the prevention of mass atrocities. The legal framework shall follow the international legal standard, which includes the adoption of legislation on the prevention of mass atrocities and the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Parliamentarians also have the power to establish national mechanism addressing the prevention of mass atrocities.
Moreover, using their political pressure, parliamentarians could advocate on behalf of marginalized communities or even urge governments to change their policies. However, the challenges remain that: 1) genocide and mass atrocities are sensitive issue for the region which makes the parliamentarians reluctant to discuss about it, and 2) some countries consider R2P as interference in state sovereignty.
Could you tell us about the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly and the type of work you do with the organization?
The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) is the only regional parliamentary organization officially associated with ASEAN, which consists of the parliaments of 10 ASEAN Member States. AIPA aims to promote the principles of human rights, democracy, peace, security and prosperity in ASEAN, and also to facilitate the achievement of ASEAN integration. While the States do not interfere in one another’s internal affairs, the primary purpose is to stand united to work together through consensus, to promote solidarity, understanding and cooperation between the States and their parliaments.
My work at the AIPA Secretariat covers research in addition to writing and publishing educational and publicity materials. The educational materials are further circulated to AIPA Member Parliaments as policy recommendations. I also develop programs and projects in relation to the strengthening of legal frameworks and harmonization of laws in ASEAN. Furthermore, my responsibilities also encompasses the development of education and awareness programs for youth, introducing them to the work of AIPA, the current issues faced by the region, and how parliamentary diplomacy can be used as a tool to resolve these issues.
What was the most important element of your visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau and your time at the Raphael Lemkin Seminar?
The visit to Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau was an intense and powerful experience. Visiting and studying history as a whole has allowed me to learn from mistakes in the past and how to prevent the same thing happen in the future. However, the capstone simulation on the last day of the Lemkin Seminar was, for me, the most important, as it allowed me to understand how to apply the policy options in different political situations.
Who or what inspires you in your work on the promotion of human rights and the prevention of mass atrocities?
The history of the Holocaust has made me realize that my region is vulnerable to an outbreak of atrocities, but it has also inspired me to do more in promoting human rights and the prevention of mass atrocities. In my capacity as Director of Policy, Education and Publicity at the AIPA Secretariat, I am convinced that the knowledge I gained from the seminar is beneficial for the program development of the organization in raising awareness, as well as developing and strengthening legal frameworks which address the prevention of mass atrocities.
An experience from the past has also made me determined to continue my efforts in promoting human rights, especially the rights of minorities, and to make sure this won’t happen again in the future.