INDONESIA: President’s commitment to tackle disappearance cases on test

An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission to Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia


Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
The President of Indonesia
Jl. Veteran No. 16
Jakarta Pusat

Tel: +62 21 345 8595
Fax: +62 21 3483 4759


Dear Mr. President,

INDONESIA: President’s commitment to tackle disappearance cases on test

The Asian Human Rights Commission (the AHRC) is writing to bring your attention to the unofficial visit of a member of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Mr. Jeremy Sarkin, to Indonesia on the 4-6th of June 2012. We would like to use this opportunity to remind your government of the obligations and promises you owe to the people of Indonesia regarding the enforced disappearance cases that took place in 1997-1998.

The AHRC appreciates the steps you and your government have taken to date in relation to the ratification process of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (CED). The AHRC is aware that Indonesia has signed the convention in 2010 and is in the process of ratifying it. We are pleased to hear that your government has also supported the recommendations related to the ratification of the CED as expressed by various countries at the latest UPR session. However, the AHRC would like to emphasise that the ratification of the convention is not the only indicator to measure your commitment in combating enforced disappearances. While being an important step forward, the ratification of the convention remains only the first step. Your commitment to eliminate and prevent enforced disappearance is also measured by the steps you take in dealing with past cases of enforced disappearance.

A series of enforced or involuntary disappearances took place in Indonesia during 1997-1998 about which the AHRC had reported in the past and the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) has concluded its inquiry report on this matter. The report was forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) in 2006. The report upholds that there is sufficient evidence to allege that gross human rights violation had taken place in such cases. Komnas HAM’s official report reveals that during 1997-1998, systematic and widespread summary killings, torture, arbitrary deprivation of liberty and involuntary disappearances had been directed against the civilians. Komnas HAM’s finding concluded these acts together constituted crimes against humanity as prohibited under Law No. 26 Year 2000. This case, therefore, is qualified to be examined by the ad hoc Human Rights Court.

The Human Rights Court law also establishes that the inquiry report submitted by Komnas HAM alone is a sufficient reason for the AGO to conduct further investigation into the case. Yet, contrary to the law, the AGO had chosen to ignore the inquiry report from Komnas HAM and, to date, have failed to take any further measures to follow up the crimes against humanity allegation.

On 28 December 2009, the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) also issued recommendations regarding the enforced disappearance cases of 1997-1998. It recommended the President and the relevant stakeholders below him to establish an ad hoc human rights court for the enforced disappearance cases as well as to find the 13 people which have been missing since that period of time. The DPR further recommended the Indonesian government to rehabilitate and to provide compensation to the family of those who have been forcibly disappeared and to ratify the CED. However, as Komnas HAM’s inquiry report and the recommendations given by the DPR were equally ignored by the AGO, there have been no signs that it will take any measures to further investigate the enforced disappearance cases.

Mr. President,

As you are aware of your authority over the AGO, the AHRC hopes that you will request an investigation into the 1997-1998 enforced disappearance cases without delay and make sure that the AGO will instantly take the necessary measures to investigate these violations further. We therefore urge you to show leadership on this issue by ordering the AGO to follow up the report of Komnas HAM and by accepting and implementing the rest of the recommendations delivered by the DPR in 2009. An impartial, adequate and effective investigation on the enforced disappearance cases that happened in the past have to be conducted and it should be followed by the establishment of an ad hoc human rights court in accordance with the Law No. 26 Year 2000 and the Constitutional Court’s judgment No. 18/PUU-V/2007. Those who are responsible should be brought to justice and the punishment imposed upon them should reflect the gravity of the crime.

The fact that your country has not ratified the CED does not mean you have no international obligation to eliminate enforced disappearances or to punish the perpetrators of such human rights violations. Enforced disappearance is, at the minimum, a violation to the right to life, the right to liberty as well as the right not to be tortured which are all guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Indonesia is a State Party. We would like to remind you that the issue of impunity in Indonesia has been a concern of many states such as Argentina, Australia, and Canada as their representatives expressed in the latest UPR session at the Human Rights Council.

We would also like to call you to provide the victims and their families with full and effective reparation which shall include restitution, compensation, rehabilitation and guarantees of non-repetition, as enshrined in the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law. Equally important, the reparation you provide should also include the disclosure of truth and the search for the whereabouts of the 13 disappeared persons. The UN Human Rights Committee and other UN mechanisms, have consistently upheld in its various judgments and comments that the failure of the state to provide the family with truth and information concerning the whereabouts of their disappeared family members may violate article 7 of the ICCPR as an inhumane treatment.

We therefore urge you to take all the necessary steps to support and implement the recommendations concerning the 1997-1998 enforced disappearance cases delivered by the DPR in 2009.

We thank you for your kind attention and look forward to your swift and adequate response on this matter.


Yours sincerely,



Wong Kai Shing
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

Document Type : Open Letter
Document ID : AHRC-OLT-011-2012
Countries : Indonesia,
Issues : Enforced disappearances and abductions,