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The World Becomes Smaller For Serious Perpetrators of Human Rights

The visa refusal of Syafrie Syamsuddin, Secretary General of the Department of Defense of the Government of Indonesia by the United States shows that human rights issues are still a problem. Currently, we apply a principle of universal jurisdiction (universal jurisdiction) for serious crimes. This principle of universal jurisdiction calls on countries in the world not to tolerate the alleged perpetrators of serious crimes under international law such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This principle gives authority to a state to prosecute the perpetrators of these serious crimes regardless of citizenship of the perpetrator or the victim and regardless of where the crimes took place.

Prohibition of issuing avisa or denying entry for Syafrie Syamsuddin is one of the practices of this principle of universal jurisdiction. The reason is clearly that Syafrie Syamsuddin is includedin the list of names of those allegedly responsible for kidnapping Activists in ‘97-‘98 (KPP HAM report of the Lost) and May riots ‘98 (May TGPF Report ‘98 and KPP HAM May ‘98). In the Immigration and National Act the United States state that the rejection of granting a visa to a person is based on such considerations that he has committed, ordered, incited, assisted, or participated in an act of torture and killings outside the law (Act 212). Similar policies are also applied in many other countries that have adopted human rights norms into immigration policy. The Indonesian Government itself should do the same thing as a consequence of several ratified international human rights instruments such as the Covenant on Civil Rights, Politics, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention Against Torture.

The lesson to be drawn from this incident is that we need a mechanism for vetting for anyone who would hold public office strategically. This vetting is a mechanism for the prohibition (banning and disqualifying) or limiting the political participation of those deemed responsible for a serious crime. The Syafrie incident was not the first time where the principle of universal jurisdiction was related to Indonesian figures. Previously, General Johny Lumintang and Sintong Panjaitan were also in trouble with the legal system in the U.S. for the issue of human rights violations in East Timor. These names may also be increased, in a different context, as the long list of alleged perpetrators of cases of gross human rights violations of the past. The absence of vetting mechanisms in Indonesia will continue to enlarge the problem. The Indonesian public will not forget how those with a problematic past regarding human rights matters continue to get elected for the position of (vice) president.

Jakarta, 6 November 2009

Victim and Family Community Human Rights Violations Victims of Indonesia and KontraS