Families of Disappeared 'Reformasi' Activists Seek Changes to Human Rights Tribunal Law

JUNE 26, 2015

A protester holds a placard depicting the 1998 kidnapping of activists. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry)

Jakarta. The families of the political activists who disappeared in connection to the May 1998 riots have asked the Constitutional Court, or MK, for a judicial review on the 2000 Law on the Human Rights Tribunal.

A resulting ruling that forces the Attorney General's Office to act on long-ignored reports of human rights abuses in 1998 could have bearing on the resolution of other human rights abuses in Indonesia.

Payan Siahaan and Yati Uryati, along with other parents of disappeared political activists, on Friday lodged the motion. Payan is the father of Ucok Munandar, while Yati is the mother of Eten Karyana. Ucok and Eten are among 13 reformasi activists whose bodies still remain unaccounted for.

Chrisbiantoro, the petitioners' lawyer and advocacy staffer at the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS), said his clients filed the review because the government had disregarded their constitutional rights.

"The government has failed to recognize my clients' right to know what really happened to their children in 1998."

'We want justice'

Specifically, the parents requested that the MK review Part 3 of Article 20 of the law. It states, "in the event that the investigator considers the inquiry findings insufficient, the inquirer shall immediately re-submit the inquiry findings to the investigator accompanied by guidelines for their completion, and within 30 days of receiving the inquiry findings, the investigator is required to consummate these insufficiencies."

Tioria Pretty Stephanie, another lawyer from KontraS, considers this article problematic because it gives law enforcers a leeway not to proceed with reports of human rights abuses. In the case of the disappearances in 1998, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) began submitting such reports to the Attorney General's Office in 2003, to little follow-up action.

"For 13 years, the Attorney General's Office has been using this article as an excuse to look the other way on these reports of human rights abuses," Tioria said on Friday, as quoted by news portal Gresnews.

Tioria said uncertainty had disrupted the victims' families' pursuit of justice, and she hoped the MK would grant the petition to avoid future repeats of inaction.

"We want certainty so we can move on with our lives," principal petitioner Yati said. "We want justice."

A long list rights violations

Bejo Untung, chair of the 1965 Murder Victims Research Foundation, said apart from the 1998 episode, the government must also recognize the victims of other tragedies, including those who perished in the 1965-66 purges. An estimated 500,000 Indonesians, suspected of having communist sympathies or otherwise, were murdered during the period.

"The 1965 victims have an interest in this case, too. They also want to the Attorney General's Office to proceed with the investigation reports written by Komnas HAM," Bejo said.

Previously, human rights activists have lambasted the Attorney General's Office for proposing reconciliation as one option to solve gross human rights violations in Indonesia. The Office claimed it could not proceed because most cases were too old.

Instead of following up on the Komnas HAM reports, Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo said the court should call on the president to form a special commission of reconciliation to handle severe human rights abuses from the past.

KontraS coordinator Haris Azhar said that the solution that Prasetyo proposed would not provide justice for the victims.

A 2012 Komnas HAM report covers seven severe human rights violations. They are the 1989 tragedy in Central Lampung; the Trisakti Event; the Semanggi Events I and II; the 2001 killings in Wasior, Papua; the 1963 human rights violations in Papua; the 1965 atrocities; and the mysterious Petrus killings circa 1983-1985.

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