Human Rights Group Calls for Public Presidential Apology

Human Rights Group Calls for Public Presidential Apology

, 15 August 2010


A prominent human rights watchdog has asked President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to use the platform of Independence Day to shine a new light on past rights abuses and finally secure justice for victims.

Haris Azhar, from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said that on Tuesday, which marks the 65th anniversary of Indonesia’s independence, the president should issue a pledge to investigate human rights abuses past and present.

“We urge the president to resolve all past human rights abuses on Kontras’s agenda. He cannot afford to remain silent, particularly since violations are occurring even now, including in Bekasi,” Haris told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday, referring to recent attacks attributed to Islamic hard-liners on the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) in Pondok Timur Indah, Bekasi.

Haris said the list of Indonesia’s unresolved human rights abuses was long.

He cited the disappearance of student activists during the May 1998 riots, the shooting of student protesters during a 1998 pro-democracy rally near the Semanggi cloverleaf in Jakarta, the 1989 massacre of 130 Muslim villagers by soldiers in Talangsari, Lampung, and attacks on villagers in Papua’s Wasior and Wamena districts.

“So many of these cases ended up unresolved and forgotten at the Attorney General’s Office,” Haris said.

“The AGO did not follow up on inquiries handed over by Komnas HAM [National Commission for Human Rights], as mandated by the 2000 Law on Human Rights Courts. The president should order the attorney general to proceed with these cases immediately.”

Investigations by Komnas HAM into the Trisakti 1998 and Semanggi I and II incidents were submitted to the Attorney General’s Office for review in 2002. According to records, Komnas HAM submitted reports on the May 1998 riots to the office in 2003.

In 2004, the rights group also filed reports on alleged abuses that occurred in 2001 and 2002 in Wasior, and in Wamena in 2003.

DT Utomo Rahardjo, the father of Bima Petrus Nugraha, a pro-democracy activist believed to have been kidnapped by Army soldiers in March 1998, said he continued to hold out hope more than a decade later that he would finally learn what happened to his son.

“Not just Bima, but all [thirteen students] who are still missing. I will never stop hoping that a fair trial will be held and that I can finally learn where my son ended up,” Utomo told the Globe.

Azwar Kaili, a survivor of the 1989 Talangsari killings, said the the villagers were killed by soldiers over their suspected support for a separatist movement.

“I am still waiting for justice to be served. The perpetrators must be brought to trial and punished,” Azwar said.

Haris said the country still had a long way to go in terms of upholding human rights.

He pointed out that Brig. Gen. Jhony Wainal Usman, who was accused of leading the killings and torture in both Waisor and Wamena, was later promoted to the post of South Sulawesi Police chief.

“Jhony at one time was facing life in jail, but the court ruled that he was not guilty,” Haris said.

“We believe his trial was not fair. The National Police chief [Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri] should not promote people like Jhony to these kinds of leadership positions,” he added.

Haris said that in 2001, a series of police raids carried out in and around the village of Wondiboi, in Waisor, ended in the deaths of four civilians, the disappearance of five others, the rape of one woman and the torture of several villagers.

Jhony was deputy chief of the National Police’s elite Mobile Brigade (Brimob) at the time.

In 2003, after suspected members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) reportedly raided a weapons arsenal in Wamena, the Indonesia military allegedly killed nine civilians, tortured 38 and forced thousands from their villages in retaliation.

Haris said that while acknowledgment and an apology from Yudhoyono for these past abuses would be a start, the victims still required extensive rehabilitation and restitution.