INDONESIA: Jakarta’s appointment of general challenged in court 

The democratic transition in Indonesia is still hampered by a number of government policies. Civil supremacy, law enforcement and human rights are not priority issues for the government in drafting these policies. This is true even of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration, even though it is considered reformist.

There has been no resolution to many cases of severe human rights violations that occurred during Soeharto’s authoritarian regime from 1965 to 1998. In fact, some policies can potentially hamper efforts to encourage accountability from parties involved in violence, including the military.

In January, the Indonesian government again made a decision that defies the values and spirit of human rights and the rule of law. The president appointed Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, an army officer with a poor track record on human rights violations during Soeharto’s regime, as deputy defense minister. The president also appointed other officials including Dr. Ir. Lukita Dinarsyah Tuwo as deputy minister of national development planning and Dr. Fasli Jalal as deputy minister of education.

Sjafrie’s appointment shocked human rights and democracy activists, as well as victims and victoms’ families, as he is a high military official considered responsible for human rights violations in May 1998, before and after Soeharto’s fall.

During the kidnapping and forced disappearances of activists in 1997-1998, and the violence against civilians at Trisakti and the riots that followed in May, 1998, Sjafrie was commander of Kodam Jaya, as well as second in command after Gen. Wiranto in a security operation called Mantap Jaya III in the same period. The National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) mentioned Sjafrie’s name in the context of command responsibility in its investigation report.

A number of victims and the families of people who were kidnapped or disappeared during those events, assisted by legal counselors from the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), Jakarta Legal Aid, Imparsial and the Setara Institute, have taken legal action to have the presidential appointments revoked. Their case was filed in Jakarta on April 5.

In their petition, the complainants point out that the presidential decree contradicts a number of laws and is detrimental to victims of human rights violations.

It is contradictory to victims’ right to a fair trial and to the principles of truth and justice. The appointment of Sjafrie violates the principle of equality before the law for the complainants who are currently involved in legal processes at the Supreme Court. However, their complaint may face complications because there is no direct connection between the results of state investigations and the appointment of Sjafrie as deputy defense minister.

The complainants also point out that the presidential decree is detrimental to the prevention of future violence by the military. Indonesia has passed a law aimed at preventing institutions including the national police and the State Intelligence Agency from misusing violence. The law orders the establishment of a Human Rights Court to demand accountability for acts of violence, to enable legal proceedings to prevent recurrence, and to correct any wrong behavior of the state apparatus and in political activities.

Finally, the complainants state that the presidential decree violates a national law on the establishment of laws and regulations, which demands respect for humanity, the protection of human rights, and equal worth and dignity for every citizen of Indonesia.

This civil litigation is being enacted to prevent impunity on the part of the military and the government during the process of democratic transition, for which civil supremacy, law and human rights are prerequisites. The presidential decree is detrimental to the victims’ efforts to achieve justice through the Human Rights Court, as well as threatening the future of democracy, which requires accountability from the perpetrators of human rights violations and military reforms.

The article was also published on UPI Asia Online.

(Yati Andriyani works for the Commission for Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), in Jakarta as head of Impunity Watch and Fulfillment of Victims’ Rights. ©Copyright Yati Andriyani.)

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Document Type : Forwarded Article
Document ID : AHRC-FAT-020-2010
Countries : Indonesia,
Issues : Administration of justice, Impunity,