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OPINI
Indonesia must resolve cases of disappeared activists

Sumber: upiasia.com | Tgl terbit: Senin, 23 November 2009
Jakarta, Indonesia — The Indonesian House of Representatives has recommended to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that he establish an ad hoc human rights court to deal with the unresolved cases of abduction and disappearance of student activists in 1997 and 1998, but it seems no progress has been made.

A special committee made several recommendations concerning these cases on Sept. 15, and a plenary session of the House of Representatives supported the recommendations on Sept. 28.

In addition to setting up the special court, the committee also recommended that the president and other relevant government institutions take appropriate steps to immediately locate the whereabouts of 13 people cited as still missing by Indonesia’s National Commission for Human Rights; that the government rehabilitate and compensate the victims and their families; and that it ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.

The ratification of the international convention could be a starting point to open investigations into the cases of the missing activists. However, concrete follow-up would also be required from government bodies with the mandate to implement the convention.

It is Yudhoyono’s responsibility to take the lead on this issue, as his party has direct authority to implement each of the recommendations. Most importantly, Yudhoyono should issue a presidential decree to establish an ad hoc human rights court, similar to the one set up to bring justice following the killing of Muslim protesters in Tanjung Priok district of Jakarta in 1984, and the truth commission set up in 2001 to investigate human rights violations in East Timor in the two decades before independence.

But the government must also learn from the failure of legal proceedings in the Tanjung Priok and East Timor human rights courts. It must prioritize the recommendation to locate the 13 missing persons and disclose their whereabouts to their families and loved ones. It must also seek to shed light on which institutions and individuals were involved in these cases.

Considering the thick political cloud that surrounds these disappearances, it is absolutely necessary that an independent council be formed to locate the 13 missing persons.

Looking at the examples of other independent investigative teams – such as the fact-finding team set up to investigate the 2004 murder of human rights activist Munir, and Team 8 set up to investigate the suspension of two members of an anti-corruption commission – their mandates were to obtain facts and information that were mostly available from the law enforcement institutions, including the police and the military. However, these teams failed to gain access to crucial information held by the police and the military.

An independent team is necessary also because the search for the 13 missing persons can be considered an investigation into an ongoing crime, as the status of the victims and their fates are unknown.

A judge in Chile, deliberating on legal proceedings concerning forced disappearances that involved former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet, said that such cases should be categorized as “continuous crimes,” as the families of the victims were not aware of the fate or condition of their missing loved ones.

In addition, the priority to search for the 13 missing victims is urgent considering the fact that the perpetrators can still victimize the families of the missing.

The families still live in uncertainty. They bear the psychological burden of not knowing the fate of their loved ones. At the same time, they also face difficulties such as proving the legal status of their missing family members in civil matters such as those that involve inheritance and the admission of children to academic institutions, among other things.

For all these reasons the president and government of Indonesia should take immediate action, in accordance with the recommendations of the House of Representatives, to resolve these outstanding cases.

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(Sri Suparyati is a lawyer and head of the International Bureau of the Commission for Disappeared and Victims of Violence, KontraS, in Jakarta, Indonesia.)



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