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Turning the Table Against the Accusers
The pervasiveness of the climate of impunity provides not only a shield to perpetrators of human rights violations to escape prosecution and accountability but it also gives them the means to subvert the judicial process in order to launch a legal offensive against human rights defenders. The accused is now turning the table against the accusers.
Maj. Gen. (ret) Muchdi Purwopranjono is the former deputy chief of the National Intelligence Agency (or BIN) who was acquitted from all charges in connection with murder of human rights activist, Munir Said Thalib when the Indonesian Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Jakarta District Court early this year. Major General Muchdi recently charged Mr. Usman Hamid, the Executive Director of KontraS and Secretary of KASUM for defamation and slander for accusing the former of ordering the killing of Munir by arsenic poisoning while travelling from Jakarta to Amsterdam on September 7, 2004.
The use of criminal and civil defamation charges against a human rights defender is becoming a convenient legal means to hinder human rights work by repressing the basic right to free expression. This is an obvious ploy to subvert court procedures and rules on evidence that undermine the rule of law and is aimed only to guarantee continuing impunity.
Mr. Usman Hamid, Munir’s co-worker and friend who appeared during the trial is only discharging his civic duty to uncover the truth behind Munir’s murder and to bring those responsible to justice. Even if the court believes otherwise, charging him is not only an affront to civil and political rights but a travesty of justice with the malicious desperate attempt to cover-up the real issue behind the still unresolved murder of Indonesia’s staunchest human rights defender.
The failure of the court to render justice on Munir’s murder trial and the prosecution of Usman Hamid are roadblocks to the country’s path towards democratization. The Indonesian government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who has received a landslide victory in the recently concluded presidential elections and will soon officially receive a new mandate in October 2009, is duty-bound to fulfill its commitment for human rights as well as to guarantee protection for human rights defenders. To do so, the Indonesian government must never leave any stone unturned to ferret out truth and to apply the full extent of the law against the masterminds of Munir’s treacherous murder. It should also fulfill its promise to sign and ratify the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Ratifying this treaty would be an act that will manifest political will to combat impunity and prevent repetition of human rights violations. It is also high time for the Indonesian government to seriously and decisively act on the recommendations submitted by Ms. Hina Jilani, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General who visited Indonesia in June 2007 to look into the situation of human rights defenders. One of her recommendations was to institute procedures to prevent the persecution of human rights defenders thus, preventing them from conducting activities that are legitimately a part of their function for the defense of human rights.
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) firmly stands that threats of reprisals, intimidation and harassment will neither cow us to silence nor will these make us surrender to fear. Instead, these will only strengthen our unwavering commitment to continue the quest for truth and justice.
|| MARY AILEEN BACALSO