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Open Letter to reject the inauguration of Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin as Deputy Minister of Defense

Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin´s Responsibilities in Human Rights Abuses

The honorable
President of the Republic of Indonesia
Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
In Presidential Palace

Best wishes,

The Commission for “The Disappeared” and Victims of Violence questions the inauguration of Lieutenant (TNI-AD) Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin as Deputy Minister of Defense.

We assess this decision as inappropriate and difficult to authorize in an administrative and legal way. The post of the deputy minister of defense is by definition a political post and therefore may not be occupied by someone who has an active status/role in the Indonesian military (TNI). Hence, the appointment of Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin can be seen as a violation of act no. 34 of the year 2004 (UU No. 34 tahun 2004), especially article 47, where it is mentioned: “An active soldier may occupy a post in an office having to do with coordination in the political field and state security, such as state defense, military secretary, state intelligence, state cryptography, National Resilience Institute, National Defense Board, National Search and Rescue Agency, the National Narcotics and the Supreme Court.” The president should read carefully the explanation of article 47 which defines that the meaning of post is a post occupied by an active soldier, excluding the position of the minister of defense or another political position.

Furthermore, Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin has been a controversial figure in the transition era of the New Order regime. Sjamsoeddin still has to explain before court several incidents of political violence and human rights violations in 1998. Build upon the investigation of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin is one of those being considered responsible for several cases of heavy human rights violations, like the incident of abduction of activists in 1997/1998, the May 1998 incident, and the Trisakti incident. If these facts are ignored, the inauguration of the deputy minister of defense will injure the feelings for equity of victims of human rights violations who are currently struggling for justice. We expect you, Mr. President Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono, to pay attention to the track record of the public official who is going to be placed in a strategic position in the state government. We urge that the mentioned position must be handed over to someone who has the competency and does not have a history of heavy human rights abuses.

As we are all aware, the investigation of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) shows the responsibility of Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin as the (highest) Commander-in-Chief (Panglima) of the V Jaya Military Area during the incident of the abduction of activists in 1997/1998, as the V Jaya Military Area Command C-in-C (Pangdam) and Mantap Jaya III operational Commander-in-Chief (Pangkoops) at the time of the May 1998 unrests, and as V Jaya Military Area Command C-in-C (Pangdam) and at a time Jaya operational Commander-in-Chief (Pangkoops) during the Trisakti/Semanggi incident. He was also being involved in the intelligence unit (SGI) Army Special Forces Command (Kompassus) during the Timor-Timur incident. It is thus in order to request responsibility from Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin in accordance with the above-mentioned incidents of human rights violations. Furthermore, former experiences show that efforts made to demand accountability from the military apparatus that is a stakeholder in acts of violence and human rights abuses were precisely inhibited by the Ministry of Defense itself.

It needs to be remembered that by November last year, the government of the United States of America refused Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin who at that time was Secretary General of the Ministry of Defense to enter the country by not issuing him a visa. This fact mirrors that the universal principal of jurisdiction for special serious abuses is effective against states that still have human rights issues with their peoples. This case is not a small issue, because it carries the potential to disturb the cooperative foreign relations of defense and military, both with the United States as well with other befriended states. It is not impossible that this case might repeat itself with other states in the coming future. In the end, Sjamsoeddin´s inauguration might even expunge Indonesia´s human right reputation in the whole world.

Once again, we ask you, Mr. President, to deliberate about this letter. Especially during the legislation period of 2004-2009, the house of representatives of the Republik of Indonesia (DPR-RI) recommended to you the establishment of an ad hoc human rights trial to handle the case of the forced removal of activists 1997-1998. Yet, a referrence of one of those who are alleged to be a perpetrator in human rights abuses will assuredly inhibit the process of law which is currently in progress, or on the other side disturb the performance of the Ministry of Defense.

In case you, Mr. President, do not consider this letter, then you do not have any sensitivity for the victims. Accordingly, we submit you this letter in order to receive your attention. Thank you.

 

Jakarta, 06 January 2010
Board of Directors

Usman Hamid
Koordinator

 

Appendix: Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin´s Responsibilities in Human Rights Abuses

No.

Incident/Case

Sjamsoeddin´s Function

Evidence

1

Abduction and forced Removal of Activists 1997-1998

V Jaya Military Area Command C-in-C (Pangdam) with rank of Mayor General (Mayjen)

Being V Jaya Military Area Command C-in-C (Pangdam) at that time, it is in order to hold Sjamsoeddin to account, at least for being aware of the incident and letting it happen. (Report by the Ad Hoc Investigation Team on heavy human rights abuses at the incident of forced removal of activists in the period of 1997-1998)

2

Trisakti, Semanggi I and Semanggi II

V Jaya Military Area Command C-in-C (Pangdam) and at the same time Jaya operational Commander-in-Chief (Pangkoops)

During the Trisakti incident, indivuals have been alleged to committing abuses against humanity, because of their positions and the actions they have undertaken on the level of the leading command of the field operation.

3

May Tragedy 1998

V Jaya Military Area Command C-in-C (Pangdam) and Mantap Jaya III operational Commander-in-Chief (Pangkoops)

During the May 1998 unrests, Sjamsoeddin was V Jaya Military Area Command C-in-C (Pangdam) and it is thus in order to hold him to account.

4

Santa Cruz, Dili, 12 November 1991

Involved in the operation of the intelligence unit (SGI) Army Special Forces Command (Kompassus)

 

Source: Research result of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM)