INDONESIA: Wiranto’s Cabinet appointment will strengthen impunity

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is gravely dismayed by President Joko Widodo’s decision to appoint retired Army General Wiranto as a Cabinet Minister of Politics, Law and Security (Menkopolhukam). An individual with such a dubious human rights record should be prosecuted for his actions, rather than given a seat in government.

According to the National Commission on Human Rights’ (Komnas HAM) inquiry report of the Student Shooting in Trisakti and Semanggi (1998-1999), General Wiranto, who served as a military commander at that time, made no attempts to stop the shooting, made no efforts to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators, and failed to prove whether or not he ordered the shooting. 

Similarly, in the May Tragedy of 13-15 May 1998, where thousands of Indonesian Chinese were brutally raped and killed by unknown people, Komnas HAM found that General Wiranto, who had effective command over the police and military, did not issue any order to stop or arrest the perpetrators and protect the victims.

Additionally, Wiranto was found by Komnas HAM to have committed crimes against humanity in East Timor during the Referendum in 1999, resulting in the Dili public prosecutor submitting a petition concerning his arrest warrant to the Dili district court, East Timor on 19 March 2004.

Wiranto’s background and the evidence against him as collected by respected national bodies makes him completely unfit for any role in governing the Indonesian polity. By appointing him to the Cabinet, President Widodo is violating his own commitment to seriously investigate and prosecute Indonesia’s past human rights abuses, as stated in his presidential manifesto. Such a step will also worsen the future of transitional justice in the country, where victims and family members are waiting for justice and remedies for 17 years, since Soeharto’s resignation.

The AHRC therefore urges President Widodo to respect the investigation reports of Komnas HAM and the Dili prosecution, as well as the Indonesian Constitution (UUD 1945), which clearly states that Indonesia is a state based on the rule of law. The President should also respect key international human rights laws, to which Indonesia is a state party. Law enforcement should be the first priority of the government, rather than political compromise, which will only lead Indonesia towards a failure at transitional justice.