Subject: 'World has no trust in Indon rights trials': Komnas HAM

also: Komnas HAM questions govt's commitment to human rights

The Jakarta Post March 6, 2003

'World has no trust in rights trials'

Kurniawan Hari and Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The recent indictment of several Indonesian military officers in East Timor shows that the international community has no trust in either the ongoing human rights trial or the country's judiciary, a noted rights activist says.

Sholahuddin Wahid, deputy chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said on Wednesday that the suspicion stemmed from the poor performance of the human rights tribunal, which had acquitted most of military and police officials prosecuted for gross human rights violations in East Timor in 1999.

A total of 18 military and police personnel, including three Army generals, and civilians were brought to trial for their role in the bloodshed in the run-up to, during, after the United Nations-sponsored referendum, in which the East Timorese people voted to break away from Indonesia in 1999.

The rampage, perpetrated by thousands of pro-Jakarta militias, claimed hundreds of lives and destroyed almost 80 percent of buildings and infrastructure there. It also drove some 250,000 East Timorese into West Timor, where they lived in squalid makeshift refugee camps. Most of them, however, have returned to East Timor.

The human rights court has acquitted most of the defendants despite international calls to bring to justice those responsible for the violence.

Sholahuddin said the human rights court was part of the country's judiciary, which is notorious for corruption and unfairness.

"Our judicial system is far from satisfactory, but that's what we have," he said, suggesting that East Timor should wait for the results of the human rights trial here.

East Timor, Indonesia's former 27th province, had charged, among others, former TNI chief Gen. (Ret) Wiranto, Lt. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri, Maj. Gen. Zaky Anwar Makarim, and Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, with crimes against humanity and asked Indonesia to repatriate those implicated in the violence.

Sholahuddin said the fact that prosecutors failed to bring Wiranto, who had been considered by some to be the person most responsible for the violence, to justice showed that Indonesia was unable to administer justice.

"But, maybe the international community would remain suspicious even if Wiranto went to trial as well," he said.

In 2001, the House of Representatives said the human rights trial was needed to prevent international intervention in the East Timor case.

House Deputy Speaker Soetardjo Suryoguritno said then that the case should be solved immediately in order to prevent intervention by outsiders.

On Wednesday, the House's defense and foreign affairs commission threw its support behind Wiranto, saying that an indictment by prosecutors in East Timor was simply a political maneuver to discredit Indonesia.

The commission suggested that all parties respect the ad hoc court specifically organized to try perpetrators of human rights abuse in East Timor.

The meeting also recommended the government pay more attention to the East Timor issue and proposed the formation of a small team to assess the case.

"The commission rejects any attempts to make (the legal case of) the human rights abuse into a political issue, mainly an indictment of Pak Wiranto and his associates," commission deputy chairman Effendy Choirie said, summarizing a more than three-hour long hearing with former defense minister and former chief of the armed forces Gen. (ret) Wiranto, former minister of foreign affairs Ali Alatas, and former legal adviser for the military Natabaya.

The hearing was held apparently to respond to the indictment by East Timor prosecutors of Wiranto for gross human rights violations after East Timor's break away from Indonesia.

During the meeting, Wiranto insisted that there was no thought, intention, plan, or even action to decimate East Timor.

The Jakarta Post March 6, 2003

Komnas HAM questions govt's commitment to human rights

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) chairman Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara questioned on Wednesday the commitment of the government and the House of Representatives (DPR) to maintain the commission's existence as an institution in charge of upholding human rights in the country.

He said Komnas HAM had no authority to prosecute human rights cases and that the Attorney General's Office, with various excuses, had ignored its recommendations in several cases.

"That is the fact. Are there any benefits (of Komnas HAM's existence)? If the answer is no, why do the government and the House not liquidate it?"

He was referring to several recommendations on human rights violations which had been ignored by both the House and attorney general.

"I think it depends on the country's political and power constellation. Today, with such a low interest in human rights enforcement, I think the House will put our recommendation in their drawer or throw it in a trash bin."

The East Timor human rights case was the only Komnas HAM recommendation that proceeded to prosecution. The results of the trial, however, received domestic and international criticism as most defendants have been acquitted.

The rights body, set up on June 7, 1993, was given a broader role in 2000 to investigate possible human rights violations and recommend action to the House. Any prosecution is only possible with the approval of the House and the president.

The House -- with Komnas HAM's recommendation -- has approved the establishment of an ad hoc court to try human rights abuses related to the 1984 Tanjung Priok incident and in East Timor in 1999.

But, the Tanjung Priok trial has yet to start despite the fact that the Attorney General's Office has already named several powerful past and present members of the Indonesia Military (TNI).

In July 2001, the House announced there were no gross human rights violations during the violence at Trisakti University in 1998 or during the Semanggi incidents in 1998 and 1999, in which at least 20 students were killed.

Former president Abdurrahman Wahid ordered an inquiry but the House supported some military officials' defiance to not answer Komnas HAM summons.

The Attorney General's Office used the House decision as an excuse to drag out following through with the prosecution.

Garuda said it would soon send a letter to the House to ask for a review of its decision of the killings.

"I have no idea what we're going to do if the House rejects our request," Garuda remarked.

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