INDONESIA: The President is legally obliged to address continuous violations on the rights of victims of enforced disappearance 

An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission to the President of the Republic of Indonesia

Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

President of the Republic of Indonesia

Jl. Veteran No. 16

Jakarta Pusat


Fax: +62 21 348 34759

Dear Mr. President,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to remind you of your obligation to ensure justice for the victims of the enforced disappearances which took place during 1997-1998. In commemoration of the International Week of the Disappeared which falls in the last week of May, we are urging you to implement the recommendations given by the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR) effectively and immediately.

On 28 September 2009, a Special Committee established by the DPR released a report on the enforced disappearance cases. The Committee, which was set up following the investigation conducted by the National Human Rights Commission, came up with four recommendations to you and your administration which are as follows:

  1. For the President to establish an Ad hoc Human Rights Court for the enforced disappearance cases which took place between 1997-1998;
  2. For the Government to search for the 13 victims who are still missing;
  3. For the Government to provide compensation and restitution to the victims;
  4. For the Government to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The Committee’s report which stipulates the four recommendations was submitted to you by the Chairman of the DPR on September 30, 2009. However, your administration has consistently disrespected it by failing to implement the recommendations. In April of last year, following a complaint submitted by the victims and their family members who were assisted by a local NGO, the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), the Ombudsman declared that by failing to implement the recommendations, you and your administration have committed maladministration and breached the principles of good governance.

Mr. President,

We wish to emphasise that this is much more than merely a violation of maladministration and the principles of good governance in that your failure to implement the recommendations is a breach to your legal obligation. As reported by KontraS, we are aware that you have argued on different occasions that you do not have the right to intervene in the legal proceedings of gross human rights violation cases, yet we are of the view that such statement is misleading as law No. 26 of 2000 clearly stipulates that an Ad hoc human rights court cannot be established without your decree.

We also wish to highlight here that your failure to take the lead in the establishment of the human rights court results in the continuous denial of the victims’ right to compensation, restitution and rehabilitation. Article 35 (2) of the aforementioned law regulates that victims can be granted these rights only after the human rights court delivers its final judgement. This provision alone is actually not in compliance with the international standards regarding the rights of victims’ of gross human rights violations to reparation. As the president, you have the authority and capacity to minimise the negative impacts of such violations by expediting the legal proceedings in the cases.

As for the recommendation regarding the search for the missing 13 activists, in addition to the fact that international law has reaffirmed that enforced disappearance is a continuous violation, we wish to bring to your attention the social impact experienced by the family members of the victims of such abuse. We have received reports that the non clarity of the victims’ whereabouts has led to difficulties for their families to conduct several arrangements related to civil matters. The daughter of one of the victims, for instance, was having difficulties in arranging her marriage as she could not provide the religious authorities with information pertaining to the whereabouts of her father. In another case, the father of an activist who was disappeared in 1997-1998 could not make proper arrangements regarding his inheritance due to a similar problem.

Mr. President,

Given the above we are calling on you to seriously respect the report issued by the DPR’s Special Committee by implementing the four recommendations. We appreciate the measures you have made for the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance yet we would like to emphasise that the other three recommendations are equally, if not more important and therefore, must be implemented.

We strongly urge you to make a positive, adequate and immediate response on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Bijo Francis

Executive Director

Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

Document Type : Open Letter
Document ID : AHRC-OLT-008-2013
Countries : Indonesia,
Issues : Human rights defenders, Judicial system, Rule of law,