Subject: Protesters say Indo government reluctant to solve past rights violations

Also Jakarta Post Editorial: Human rights revisited

Protesters say government reluctant to solve past rights violations

Kompas - December 7, 2007

Jakarta -- The victims and families of victims of human rights violations say the government is reluctant to resolve past human rights cases. Cases such as the 1997-1998 abduction of activists, the shooting of Trisakti students and the Semanggi I and II incidents, which should be investigated, are precisely those that are being ignored and left dependent on finding a legalistic ground to take action.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is seen as being passive because he is incapable of maximising the performance of cabinet members in resolving human right violations. It is not surprising therefore that the victims and families of victims of human rights violations believe that the president's statement that there is no one who is above the law is merely something nice to hear.

These concerns were included in an open letter to President Yudhoyono from the Solidarity Network for Victims and Families of Victims (JSKKK) that was handed to the president through a member of the Presidential Security Detail (Paspampres) on the afternoon of Thursday December 6, during a Thursday Action in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta.

The letter was part of an ongoing campaign by victims and the families of victims to seek justice. "This is our 18th letter", said Arief, the father of BR Norma Irmawan, who was shot dead by security personnel when the Semanggi I incident erupted on November 13, 1998.

Out of the 18 letters that the group has already sent to the president, only once have they received a response from State Secretary Hatta Rajasa. The reply contained a request that Attorney General accept and accommodate the complains of the victims and families of victims of human rights violations.

Also present during this, the 44th Thursday Action, were four members of the National Human Rights Commission, Ridha Saleh, Yoseph Adi Prasetyo, Saharudin Daming and Syafruddin Ngulma Simeulue. "The government cannot just remain silent," said Simeulue. (JOS)

December 10, 2007

Jakarta Post


Human rights revisited

Is all really quiet on the front line in the war against human rights abuses? Some people in Indonesia certainly think so. And one would hesitate to think otherwise if one goes by the headlines of the newspapers (including this one) throughout 2007.

There have been very few stories of human rights atrocities committed in Indonesia throughout the year that made the front pages of the newspapers. There have certainly been far fewer than in the late 1990s and early 2000s when hardly a day went by without a report on human rights abuses in particular parts of the country, whether East Timor, Aceh, Papua or some other corner of the archipelago.

Today, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will likely pass unnoticed by the public because human rights are no longer a major issue on the national political agenda. Even the Nobel Peace Prize award, which will be presented today to co-winners Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Oslo, is moving the spotlight from human rights to global warming.

But to accept this is to play right into the hands of those people and institutions who continue to commit human rights violations almost with impunity in this country. To accept this is to deny the demands for justice and for redress from the many victims of past human rights abuses. To accept this is to betray Munir, the Indonesian human rights activist, whose killing more than three years ago remains unsolved, with his killer, or killers, still being at large.

The near silence in the human rights battle does not mean that the war has been won in Indonesia. And International Human Rights Day is precisely the time to remind ourselves of the great deal of unfinished work, the legacy of past human rights abuses, that needs addressing.

We certainly need to be thankful that things have significantly improved since the collapse of the tyrannical Soeharto regime and the advent of democracy in 1998. We need to be thankful that two hot spots as far as human rights are concerned, namely East Timor and Aceh, are less violent today. East Timor is now the independent Timor Leste (though a new tragedy is evolving there), and Aceh is a peaceful area struggling to recover after the devastating tsunami three years ago.

A more democratic Indonesia is also one that requires the government to be more accountable, and this has significantly curtailed human rights violations committed by the state. When we amended the constitution in 2000-2002, we inserted enough human rights protections to hopefully prevent the nation from regressing to the past, where state-sponsored violence was the norm.

But while we have every reason to be thankful for the significant improvement in the observance of human rights in this country, we also have to work to make sure that human rights atrocities do not go unpunished.

And today we are confronted by the fact that, increasingly, human rights violations are being committed by non-state players, in the form of terrorists and radicals, many using the pretext of religion. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's record on human rights is, unfortunately, found so wanting that it raises questions about his own personal commitment to the cause.

This includes his failure to date to catch and punish Munir's murderer(s) as he promised to Munir's widow three years ago, and his role in scrapping altogether the truth and reconciliation commission that was set up to look into cases of human rights abuses. Meanwhile, many military officers (his colleagues and seniors), who should have been held responsible for the atrocities in East Timor, Aceh and elsewhere, have not been held to account for their actions.

Increasingly, we are also seeing the state failing in its duty to come to the rescue of minority religions in this country. Mr. President, we are not impressed.

Let this day be the time we honor all those victims of human rights abuses. Let this day be the time we renew our commitment to continuing the struggle for justice for Munir, who showed us that when it comes to human rights, there is no time for rest and no room for complacency.

Back to December menu

World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu