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Indonesia: New vice minister of defense

 

Wednesday, 8 September 2010, 12:46 pm
Press Release: Asian Human Rights Commission

Indonesia: Key perpetrator of student crackdown and riots in 1997/98 promoted to vice minister of defense

The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) strongly oppose the appointment of Lieutenant General TNI Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin as vice minister of defense by the President. Lieutenant General Sjamsoeddin has been involved in several cases of gross human rights violations in 1997 and 1998. Today is the sixth anniversary of the killing of Indonesia's leading human rights defender, Munir Said Thalib whose murder occurred as a result of his work supporting the victims of the military crimes of that period. While one of the perpetrators involved in his murder was sentenced to imprisonment, the instigators of his assassination continue to enjoy immunity until today.

KontraS and the AHRC are shocked by the negligence with which the government is dealing with the rights of the victims by promoting Lieutenant General Sjamsoeddin, one of the key perpetrators of the aforementioned violations, in the Department of Defense. Despite his earlier assurances to support victims of gross human rights violations, President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued presidential decree no. 3/P of 2010 regarding the appointment of Lieutenant General Sjamsoeddin. Previously, the Lieutenant General was secretary general of the Department of Defense.

On April 5, 2010 a lawsuit challenging the Presidential decree was submitted by the victims and the victim's families from the student shootings at the Trisakti University in Jakarta in 1998, the May Riot Tragedy of 1998 and the cases of enforced disappearances of student activists in 1997 and 1998. According to Komnas HAM's report, on May 12, 1998 four students were shot to death by the Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia (ABRI, consisting of Military and Police until 2002) in the Trisakti University during reform movements. After that on 13 – 15 May of 1998, the Armed Forces ignored the riots in the Jakarta region and did not intervene to stop the mass rape of women of the Indonesian Chinese community, called Tionghoa, looting and other forms of violence that occurred. Furthermore, between 1997 to 1998, 22 students were kidnapped by the Special Forces for their political reform activities and 13 students remain missing until now. The remaining nine students were subsequently released.

The lawsuit by the victims and their families demanded the nullification of Presidential decree no 3/P of2010. On September 6, 2010, the verdict of the Administrative Court (PTUN) in Jakarta refused the lawsuit after a trial process of five months.

The lawsuit refers to inquiry reports of the National Commission for Human Right (Komnas HAM) which announced that Lieutenant General Sjamsoeddin was involved in the Trisakti case, the student shootings in 1998 and the May Riot Tragedy of May 13-15 of 1998. At the time when these human rights violations occurred in 1997-1998, Lieutenant General Sjamsoeddin was military district commander in Jakarta and commander of the related Mantab Jaya military operation. According to Komnas HAM's report, as commander in both posts, he bore responsibility for the security and order in the Jakarta region where the atrocities occurred.

Between 1999 and 2006, Komnas HAM has conducted three inquiries and the results were sent to the Attorney General (AG). Until now the AG has not responded to any of these cases. This is seen as a result of the political influence on the AG's office which is thus not making use of its mandate according to law. The AG refuses to follow up the inquiry and to set up an investigation team as prescribed by the Human Rights Court Law. The cases are still pending in the AG's office.

The victims and their families together with KontraS and others human rights organizations in Jakarta submitted an appeal to the high court in which they demanded the high court to review the verdict of the previous level.

Human rights defender Munir who fought for the victim's rights was killed and we honour his legacy on the sixth anniversary of his assassination. The instigators of his assassination are protected by the political climate of impunity. Now that one of the key perpetrators responsible for those crimes has been made vice minister for defense, President Yudhoyono's promise to work for overcoming the past and to support the victims seems nothing more than whitewash. KontraS and the AHRC deplore the ongoing politicisation of the justice process and the overreaching power of the military in Indonesian politics and demand that the high court review the verdict regarding the promotion of Lieutenant General Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.