Subject: Indonesia Fails on Human Rights Protection: Watchdog

The Jakarta Post Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Govenment Has Failed to Promote Human Rights Protection: Watchdog

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government's failure to reform the Indonesian Military (TNI), the National Police, and the Supreme Court as well as the Attorney General's Office had worsened human rights protection in 2003, a human rights watchdog says.

In its 2003 evaluation of human rights implementation, the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy or Elsam said that "government policies in politics and economics have put Indonesia in a politically difficult situation vis-a-vis human rights".

"The government and the House of Representatives have only made legislation to support rights enforcement, but have not attempted to boost its implementation," said Ifdhal Kasim, Elsam's director, during a press conference on Tuesday.

According to Elsam, this was a result of the government's failure to reform state institutions such as the TNI, the police, the judiciary and the Attorney General's Office.

The TNI and the police have failed to reform themselves following their separation in 2000, Elsam said, referring to the many clashes between personnel of the two institutions in 2003.

"Reform is only in the sphere of administrative affairs. The police have failed to end its militaristic culture, while the TNI insists on maintaining its involvement in the country's internal security," Ifdhal said.

He referred to the deployment of the military in the early stages of several conflicts across the country, such as in Aceh and Poso, last year.

Ifdhal specifically criticized the poor performance of the Attorney General's Office following its failure to put defendants in the East Timor rights trial in jail.

"The President must separate the Attorney General's Office from the executive branch. How can the Attorney General's Office work independently if it is included in the President's Cabinet? It means the Attorney General's Office must support government policy and will not be able to be independent," he said.

Ifdhal also said that the Attorney General's Office must stop "employing a militaristic approach in its office culture", referring to the practice of using a uniform with a tag to show an official's rank.

"The New Order always installed a military officer as the attorney general, therefore, the civilian institution has become very militaristic," he said.

Ifdhal said that this background made it "difficult psychologically" for prosecutors to prosecute high-ranking military officers in the East Timor rights trial.

Several military and police officers were brought to court for their role in human rights violations in East Timor in 1999 but most of them were acquitted. Even those sentenced to prison remain free pending an appeal.

Elsam also criticized the poor performance of the Supreme Court, saying that the institution has failed to improve its human resources.

The government, too, Elsam said, has failed to give sufficient political support to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) as a legitimate state body.

"Other state institutions consider Komnas HAM as a non-constitutional body. Therefore, they ignore its presence and instead, publicly denounce the commission despite the fact that it is authorized to investigate human rights violations," he said.

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