INDONESIA: Government unwilling to resolve past human rights abuses

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has information regarding the last two years of President Joko Widodo’s administration. It appears that the government has not yet made any effort to resolve past human rights abuses. After President Widodo won the presidential election in 2014, victims and their families had great expectations of him. Instead of resolving the cases, the President promoted controversial persons allegedly involved in committing past human rights abuses. They are retired Army General Wiranto, former Chief of the Military and retired Army General Ryamizard Ryacudu, former Chief of the Army.

The National Commission on Human Rights and The Attorney General (AG) have shown their unwillingness to bring the case to an ad hoc Human Rights Court, as mandated by Law No. 26 of 2000. President Widodo has failed to develop a standard of justice for handling past human rights abuses. The National Council, set up by the government recently, is merely a compromise to reach a consensus between the government and the alleged perpetrators. The National Council does not have any legal basis, because Law No. 26 of 2000 and Law No. 39 of 1999 do not recognize The National Council. These laws merely acknowledge the Human Rights Court which are complemented by the Truth and Reconciliation Mechanism (TRC).

The drafting process of the bill on TRC was submitted to the Parliament two years ago but has made no progress to date. Obstacles in the parliament to complete the bill are due to lack of perspective and a political will. In addition, opportunities are becoming more difficult since the setting up of the political party, titled, the Great Indonesian Movement Party (Gerindra). It was established by Prabowo Subianto, former Commander of the Special Armed Forces and the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), established by retired General Wiranto.

Despite being supported by a majority of parliamentary members, the government does not have enough confidence and willingness to ensure that the law enforcement agencies will undertake a proper investigation. The government argues that by avoiding the judicial process in adjusting past human rights abuses, they will ensure harmony in the nation.

President Widodo’s administration is fragile. He sought support from Prabowo Subianto, allegedly involved in the case of the enforced disappearances of student activists 1997-1998. The government simply ignored the investigative report of the National Commission on Human Rights. No legal audit was held to examine the unwillingness of the Attorney General to submit the cases to the ad hoc Human Rights Court as mandated by Law No. 26 of 2000 under articles 21 and 22 which stated

Article 21:
(1). Investigation of cases of gross violations of human rights shall be undertaken by the Attorney General.

(1). Investigation as referred to in Article 21 clause (1) and (3) must be completed within a period of no longer than 90 (ninety) days from the date the inquiry findings are received and declared complete by the investigator.

Article 22:
(2). The time period referred to in clause (1) may be extended for a period not exceeding 90 (ninety) days by the Chief Justice of the Human Rights Court in accordance with his or her judicial scope.
(3). In the event that the time period referred to in clause (2) elapses before the investigation is complete, the investigation may be extended for a period of no more than 60 (sixty) days by the Chief Justice of the Human Rights Court in accordance with his or her judicial scope.

The circumstances of the victims and their families are worsened because they face uncertain legal status. Getting old and sick, they suffer serious economic problems and are traumatized. Many die without any assistance or support from their government. Their situation is totally different when compared to the perpetrators. None of the alleged perpetrators were convicted, most of them enjoy impunity, taking part in the ruling or opposition parties. They act like innocent people while trying to find a way to avoid the judicial process for past human rights abuses. And, there is still in existence a political party that promotes Suharto as a national hero.

Considering all the weaknesses in President Widodo’s administration, the AHRC stresses that the government needs to be open and transparent in this situation. They should report to the public about the plan and policy for settling past human rights abuses. The government has to demonstrate whether its policy is in favor or against impunity. There are no commanding reasons or legal basis to the government’s argument that by resolving past abuses cases through the ad hoc Human Rights Court is putting the nation in jeopardy.

Another need surfaces. Government needs to set up an effective system with a policy that provides compensation for victims and their families for past abuses. Remedies have to be in line with international human rights standards. Compensation is NOT government charity, but a MUST. It goes along with the obligation to eradicate impunity.