Indonesia has repeatedly failed to achieve conclusive justice for victims of state-sponsored human rights violations during 13 years of the reform era, according to a new report.
Released by two leading human rights watchdogs, the report, titled “Derailed: Transitional Justice in Indonesia Since the Fall of Suharto,” divides the reform era into three stages, beginning in 1998.
“Since 1998 and the start of reformasi , there have been commendable government initiatives to address human rights abuses,” said Haris Azhar, director of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras).
He cited “changes to the Constitution, legal and security sector reform and the establishment of new institutions to investigate past abuses and hold perpetrators accountable.”
During the presidency of Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid — 1999-2001, the first phase distinguished in the report — several breakthroughs were made, the authors say.
One of them was the dismissal of former Indonesian Armed Forces Chief Gen. Wiranto, so he could be questioned by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) — although he refused to appear.
“Gus Dur was also the one who separated the police from the military. But maybe because of being too progressive, Gus Dur was toppled,” Haris said.
The report described the second phase, comprising the years 2001-06, as marked by compromise: a law was passed allowing for human rights tribunals to be formed, but none of those resulted in convictions.
It was also a period that saw the murder of two prominent human rights activists. Papuan leader Theys Hiyo Eluay was killed by members of the Army’s Kopassus special forces in 2001 and Munir Said Thalib was poisoned on a flight to the Netherlands in 2004.
The third phase, from 2007 until the present, has been characterized by the entrance of controversial former members of the security forces onto the political stage, the report said.
One example is Wiranto, who never faced charges for military actions during Indonesia’s tumultuous withdrawal from East Timor, and is now the chairman of the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura).
“This report tries to unravel the mess we’re currently in,” said Galuh Wandita, director of the International Center for Transitional Justice’s Indonesia office. “It is not a road map to justice. We tried to see the obstacles, whether we could detect a pattern.”
The team that drew up the report also looked at fact-finding mechanisms and judicial proceedings for human rights cases.
“We found that military officials are uncooperative. In the aftermath of the East Timor case, Tanjung Priok in 1984 and Abepura [in Papua, in 2000], none of them showed up for questioning by Komnas HAM,” Haris said.
Those three incidents were the only ones brought before human rights tribunals, but resulted in zero convictions.
Between 1975-99 the military ran brutal operations in East Timor that resulted in an estimated 100,000 deaths.
In 1984, the military opened fire on a group of Muslim demonstrators in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta. The exact death toll remains unknown, but estimates run in the hundreds.
In 2000, following an attack on the Abepura Police, officers arrested 105 people. Some were then tortured and three killed.