Human rights the dark side of the SBY administration

Human rights the dark side of the SBY administration

The Jakarta Post, 10 December 2010

By: Rusdi Marpaung and Eko Waluyo


The picture of Indonesian human rights at the end of 2010 has been tarnished as a result of the torture of indigenous Papuans in Puncak Jaya in Papua, which was recorded and uploaded to YouTube.

The video shocked the world for two reasons. First was the nature of the torture, with Indonesian security forces using extremely cruel interrogation methods.

The second, which was the most compelling, is that this torture happened under a democratic government.

Despite a quick response from the President to bring the case to justice, the Jayapura military court handed down sentences of only a few months to four members of the TNI Infantry Battalion from Yonif PFC 753/AVT Nabire.

They were charged under Article 103 of the Military Penal Code regarding rejected service orders, service orders exceeded and invitations to refuse service orders.

The lenient sentences, which never mentioned torture, were part and parcel of the Indonesian legal system, which does not use the word “torture” even though Indonesia has already ratified the Convention Against Torture (CAT).

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government did not investigate another video showing a horrific crime — a Papuan farmer, Tunaliwor Kiwo, allegedly tortured by the Indonesian Military (TNI).

These tortures violated human rights, particularly protected under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). There is an important question to ask after the release of these videos: How can the military in Papua be justified in addressing Papuan issues?

TNI chief Adm. Agus Suhartono recently admitted that there are ongoing military operations in the province. Meanwhile, the President said during his visit to the province on Nov. 22 that his government would not use security approaches in addressing Papuan issues.

This statement would be welcomed by Papuans if the President provided a framework to withdraw non-regular troops in the province, as in Aceh’s peace agreement.

In a related development, the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) commander Maj. Gen. Lodewijk F. Paulus is looking forward to deeper ties with Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment (SAS). Recently, Kopassus and SAS held joint military exercises at Bali’s airport.

The Kopassus chief is pushing for urban warfare training in Australia and jungle warfare training in Indonesia next year.

This is alarming for human rights in Indonesia because of past cases of human rights violations allegedly committed by Kopassus members.

It will create diplomatic problems between Jakarta and Canberra because there is no assurance that training will stop Kopassus troops from committing wrongdoing or violating human rights in the future.

Another element of human rights is the poor protections for Indonesian migrant workers. As oil is no longer a pillar for the Indonesian economy, labor export has been one of the drivers of our country’s economic development.

Millions of Indonesians work overseas as migrant workers, contributing significantly to the economy by repatriating remittances. The official remittances were reported at US$3 billion in 2005, just over 1 percent of GDP.

One human rights case in point is the physical abuse of Sumiati, an Indonesian migrant worker, by her Saudi Arabian employer.

Her case is merely the tip of the iceberg, as there are more than 2.67 million Indonesian migrant workers who generally work in countries where labor regulations do not really protect workers.

Under the Saudi kingdom’s labor sponsorship system, known as kafalah, migrant workers cannot leave the country or change jobs without explicit permission.

Although the issue of migrant workers has received national media attention, the Sumiati tra-gedy is evidence the Indonesian government does not have an effective policy to protect its migrant workers.

In response to Sumiati’s tragedy, the President ordered each Indonesian migrant worker be given access to a cell phone. The President’s order received a blunt response from a House of Representatives member from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Diah Pitaloka, who said the President must have the courage to sternly warn his staff regarding the poor fate of Indonesian migrant workers abroad.

During his recent visit to Indonesia, US President Barack Obama praised Indonesia as a diverse country with many ethnic and religious groups under the framework of the state ideology Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity).

However, there are serious concerns about the protections for minority religious groups such as Ahmadiyah. Ahmadiyah followers have been under attack by hardline groups, while the Indonesian government has issued restrictions against Ahmadiyah.

Meanwhile, the Protestant Batak Church (HKBP) in Bekasi, West Java, was recently attacked in front of police by suspected Muslim extremists.

In a separate case, Kontras, Indonesia’s human rights NGO, reported that in 2005 there were many cases of mistaken arrests of bombing suspects, who were then released because of lack of evidence.

After the second Bali bombing on Oct. 1, 2005, there were as many as 20 people arrested in error, and many were tortured by the police in this era of reformasi, when Indonesia has already ratified CAT and ICCPR.

The resolution of these and other past and recent human rights violations depends on the judicial system and law enforcement. There is much corruption within law enforcement and Yudhoyono is unable to address this effectively, including the Gayus case. Law enforcement has also never been properly reformed.

For example, there has been no strong and independent oversight of the Indonesian Police and the TNI. Even the police chief has refused to come to Komnas HAM to testify about his alleged involvement in human rights abuses in 1998.

This human rights situation shows the dark side of President Yudhoyono’s administration. This is reflected by the administration ignoring past human rights abuses, and with no assurance that violations will not be repeated in the future. The case of the torture in Papua shows how legal impunity influences the violent mentality of state apparatuses.

In view of the human rights conditions and security approach taken by the government after the Bali bombings, it can be concluded that counterterrorism measures in Indonesia have always involved the excessive use of power.

This should be corrected in the future because there could be a boomerang effect for democracy and for establishing peace and security.

In essence, human rights protection should not be provided for the Indonesian people against torture and physical abuse alone, but also for minority groups and many of the country’s 240 million who still live below the poverty line and require access to social security, education, healthcare and food.

This is the role a democratically elected government is expected to perform.

Eko Waluyo is a program coordinator at Indonesian Solidarity, a human rights NGO based in Sydney, and currently completing a master’s degree in international social development at the University of New South Wales.
Rusdi Marpaung is a senior researcher at Imparsial, The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor, and currently completing a master’s degree in international human rights and policy at the University of New South Wales.