The year of human rights paradox for Indonesia

The year of human rights paradox for Indonesia

 

The Jakarta Post
Usman Hamid

Final days of each year are always the best opportunity to reflect on what happened during the year in order to predict or project the future.

Just recently, people from across the country, together with other global citizens, commemorate the International Human Rights Day and still have classic demands that haven’t yet come to fruition: justice, land, employment and welfare.

The human rights situation in the year 2009 illustrates a paradox state. On one hand there were some improvements.

In order to come to terms with the past, the parliament has made the political decision that recommends the President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono establish an ad hoc human rights court for enforced disappearance cases, including finding the fate and the whereabouts of missing persons, to provide rehabilitation and compensation to the victims and their families and to ratify the United Convention Against Enforced Disappearance.

In order to prevent such legacy from repetition in the future, the Indonesian government has been actively pushing for the establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.

And also, other positive developments have been observed in the introduction of the National Police Chief Regulation on the Implementation of Human Rights Principles and Standard.

Such instrument will be extremely important to measure the incompatibility of police technical procedures and actions, and also prevent the use of excessive force in handling demonstrations or to prevent arbitrary arrest and detention, as well as torture practices. These are all improvements that need to be appreciated.

On the other hand, however, those achievements were nothing compared to the stagnation of justice concerning other important human rights violations, including the acquittal of former Commander of Army’s Special Forces and Deputy V of State Intelligence Agency Muchdi P.R. in the murder of human rights defender Munir.

Having the State Intelligence Agency led by a former police chief
(civilian) is something useful for building a less militaristic state intelligence and cooperative for the next investigation on the Munir case.

However, without having a more committed Attorney General who dares to take action against masterminds with strong connections with those in power, nothing’s going to change.

The recent legal status on the Munir case is up to the Attorney General, whether it would take the very last legal resort, to file for Peninjauan Kembali/PK or review with the Supreme Court, and whether it will provide new evidence that has already been collected by the police.

In the context of legislative and institutional reform, the government and the parliament didn’t even meet the targets in the National Action Plan on Human Rights 2004-2009 that includes the ratification of the Rome Statue and several other conventions on migrant, genocide and refugees.

Furthermore, the parliament and the executive have failed to revise the law on military tribunals, where the police has been blocked from investigating crimes committed by military personnel.

By having this law, soldiers will continue to enjoy impunity in the future. And even a strong state body, such as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) cannot take on cases of corruption involving military personnel, to justice. From the era of Soeharto to Yudhoyono’s administration, the military is still above the law.

In the meantime, the situation in Papua is also deteriorating with many violent acts and people being prosecuted for peaceful political activities.

In Aceh, the enactment of the new criminal code based on Islamic Sharia law (Qanun Jinayah) will undermine the image of Indonesia as a moderate Muslim society with the role as a pioneer of democracy.

It’s clear that those agendas should be readdressed by the government and the parliament in 2010.

Unfortunately, the re-elected President didn’t consider the human rights agenda as the priority of his programs, at least in the upcoming year. What will happen then?

First, although it’s likely that a gross violation of human rights will occur, violation committed by security forces will be unavoidable.

The most risky situation is the violence related to the conflict surrounding the claim of people living in poverty or other vulnerable groups concerning economic rights.

In the context of civil and political rights, the main issues will concern the attack on the freedom of thought or religion and expression with the trend of using the criminalization act, particularly against the people who promote those rights.

Second, the state accountability is absent, which would facilitate other human rights abuses to take place again without an effective remedy. Interestingly, the President should respond to the previous parliament’s recommendation on the establishment of a court to try the responsible perpetrators of the 1997/1998 enforced disappearance case.

Delaying the decision is not an option and could undermine the Yudhoyono’s credibility.

Similar to that, it seems that the Munir case is going nowhere, although this case is considered by many as a political test to the human rights issue in Indonesia.

The year 2010 could also be a good opportunity to reform the law enforcement institutions, particularly the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office, which have been declared by Yudhoyono after recent public outrage on corruption.

The President should think of strengthening the external accountability of those institutions and consider a vetting system based on human rights standards.

Third, the situation in Papua could worsen if there is no genuine dialogue between the central government and representatives from Papua.

This region is one of a few areas that has significant numbers of prisoners of conscience. People are convicted for peaceful political protests with treason charges. If this practice is maintained, Papuans will continue to feel abandoned.

The writer is coordinator for the Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence (Kontras).