Activists Blast AG's Attempt to Keep Past Rights Abuse Cases Out of Court


MAY 22, 2015

Jakarta. Human rights activists on Friday lambasted Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo’s remarks for seeking settlements and not a full investigation into past gross human rights violations in Indonesia.

“We will try to resolve [the rights violation cases]. Of course, the option of a reconciliation and non-judiciary efforts is back on the table,” the attorney general said on Thursday evening as quoted by Antara news agency.

Prasetyo aired the remarks after a meeting with chief security minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti and the Justice Ministry’s director general for human rights, Mualimin Abdi. The attorney general said the agencies had agreed to set up a committee to conduct these “reconciliation” efforts, which include seeking out-of-court settlements for the victims and their families.

The so-called “Reconciliation Committee” will fall directly under President Joko Widodo’s purview.

The decision has caused an uproar among human rights activist who previously welcomed the AGO’s decision to reopen seven major human rights cases, including the 1965-1966 massacre of alleged communist sympathizers that killed somewhere between 500,000 and three million Indonesians.

The AGO also plans to look into the 1998-1999 killing and kidnapping of student activists during the unrest surrounding the fall of former president Suharto.

AGO spokesman Tony Spontana defended the reconciliation approach, saying we want to step out of the shackles of an investigation which ultimately leads to a blame game.”

Poengky Indarti, the executive director of Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial), said the government seemed eager to find an easy way out and ultimately let the perpetrators, some of them among the political elites of today, walk free.

Among the cases the AGO promised to investigate earlier was the massacre of civilian protesters in Talangsari, in Lampung province, on Feb. 7, 1989, in a military operation led by Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono.

Hendropriyono last year served as a senior adviser to president Joko's presidential campaign and remains close to Joko’s political patron, Megawati Soekarnoputri, the chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Also on the list is the kidnapping of dozens of student activists said to involve retired general Prabowo Subianto, who ran against Joko in last year's election.

“Reconciliation is a pragmatic stance from the government which will benefit only the perpetrators and disrupt the rights of victims and their families,” Poengky said.

“The AGO must continue the investigation previously carried out by the National Commission on Human Rights [Komnas HAM], not discard it through reconciliation.”

In 2012, Komnas HAM submitted a report to then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration which found indications of gross human rights violations in cases including the anti-communist purge.

Hendardi, chairman of the rights group the Setara Institute, said a reconciliation could only be done after a thorough investigation and prosecution of those involved.

“The AGO hasn’t even done anything yet but strangely it has already opted for reconciliation,” he said.

Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said a reconciliation was not only unfair but also impossible.

“The attorney general must use his common sense. Can you reconcile a crook and a mother who lost her child to kidnapping and murder?” he said.