Subject: Families of Vanished Activists in '97-98 Unrest Want AGO to Review Cases

From Joyo

The Jakarta Globe October 8, 2009

Families Ask AGO to Review Case of Vanishing Activists

by Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Heru Andriyanto

The Attorney General's Office was under strong pressure on Wednesday to immediately form an ad hoc team tasked with investigating the disappearances of activists who went missing during the country's 1997-1998 unrest.

Dozens of the activists' family members arrived at the AGO head office in South Jakarta to meet with Attorney General Hendarman Supandji and deliver the request.

Speaking at a press conference held before the meeting, Usman Hamid, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said the AGO must immediately respond to the House of Representative's previous decision urging President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to form an ad hoc human rights tribunal for the case.

He demanded the AGO immediately begin the investigation without waiting for the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal by the president.

"The AGO is not required to wait for a presidential decree ordering the establishment of the tribunal. Investigation means that evidence is collected. If the evidence is sufficient the AGO moves to prosecute," Usman said.

Separately, Marwan Effendy, AGO deputy for special crimes, said his office had the authority to conduct an investigation, but that it would not be an easy task to bring the case to court.

"The problem now is whether the legal instruments can snare [the kidnappers] or not. Because we already have a pre-existing legal instrument used to bring the case to the trial," Marwan said.

He was referring to the 1999 military tribunal that found Prabowo Subianto, former commander of the Army's Strategic Reserve (Kostrad) and Special Forces (Kopassus), guilty of ordering his subordinates to kidnap the activists.

Prabowo was subsequently discharged from the military. Eleven of his subordinates were court-martialed that same year, with one discharged, and 10 other soldiers each given sentences of one to two years in jail.

The country's legal system recognizes the double jeopardy principle, which means defendants cannot be tried twice for the same crime.

But Marwan promised that the AGO would begin its investigation as soon as the president issued a decree stipulating establishment of the ad hoc human rights tribunal.

Meanwhile, the newly-elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, Marzuki Ali, was also urged on Wednesday to follow up the previous House's recommendation for the president to establish the tribunal.

If the AGO wants a presidential decree for the establishment of the tribunal, then give it to them," Amirrudin EL Arab from the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam) said in a press conference in Jakarta.

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