Amnesty International Indonesia said this week that a review of the mandate of the National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM) may be necessary as part of efforts to resolve human rights violations in the country. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak A)

Concern Over Caliber, Political Affiliation of Komnas HAM Commissioner Candidates

BY :YUSTINUS PAAT

JULY 03, 2017

Jakarta. Several mass organizations united under the Coalition to Save Komnas HAM have voiced concern over the perceived quality of the candidates available for selection as commissioners of the National Commission on Human Rights for the 2017-2022 period.

The commission plays a key role in the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.

What Is Komnas HAM?

Komnas HAM was established through a decree in 1993, during the authoritarian rule of former President Suharto, shortly after the United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued a resolution that expressed deep concern over allegations of serious human rights abuses by the Indonesian authorities in East Timor.

After Suharto was toppled, Komnas HAM's presence was strengthened through several legal instruments, including the 1999 Human Rights Law, which cemented its position as a government-backed institution.

A year later, through the Law on Human Rights Courts of 2000, the commission gained the power to conduct investigations into alleged human rights abuses and if necessary, forming ad-hoc teams that can include independent experts.

The 2008 Law on the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination saw Komnas HAM secure the power to guide the country towards equality of opportunity and treatment for its citizens.

The commission also plays an instrumental role in advising the government on national legislation and regulations.

Komnas HAM commissioners are proposed by the commission and selected by the House of Representatives before being inaugurated by the president.

Sixty Candidates

The selection committee responsible for vetting the applicants has selected 60 candidates from an initial group of 199.

The candidates have passed tests, which were open to the public, in May. Prominent members of society, mass organizations, nongovernmental organizations and journalists served on the selection committee established to determine the expertise of the candidates.

The candidates' knowledge on human-rights-related subjects and their ability to compile reports were tested, while they also had to demonstrate public speaking skills.

However, the Save Komnas HAM coalition, which consists of independent experts, is not satisfied with the candidates. The coalition submitted its evaluation, in the form of a score sheet for each candidate, to the selection committee on Monday (03/07).

Preliminary checks determined that nine of the 60 candidates are involved with radical Islamic groups, while dozens have strong affiliations with political parties.

HTI Affiliation

Coalition member Totok Yuliyanto, a director of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), said of the nine candidates linked to radical groups, one was believed to be a member, or sympathizer of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) – the local chapter of an international Muslim organization seeking to establish a theocratic state comprising all Islamic countries.

The government is currently working to disband HTI, on the basis that the organization's activities are harmful to Indonesia's sovereignty and that they contravene the state ideology and the Constitution.

"There is one who was a member, of just a sympathizer of HTI. We acquired the information, not just through the organization [where the candidate is affiliated], but also from friends and colleagues. That means the person is a member of a radical mass organization," Totok said, without disclosing the name of the person.

Integrity, Independence

The coalition also assessed the candidates and highlighted several aspects, such as their capacity, independence, integrity and competence, which are crucial in determining their suitability as human rights commissioners.

In terms of capacity, Totok said 13 candidates have affiliations with political parties, while another 13 have strong affiliations with corporations. Dozens also seem to have difficulties to effectively communicate and cooperate with others, while performance and managerial principles also raised concerns.

The selection committee, headed by professor Jimly Asshiddiqie, an Islamic scholar and former Constitutional Court chief justice, will further weed out the candidates to 28, before a more intense selection process involving background checks and psychological tests will reduce their number to 14. This list will then be handed to the House, where lawmakers will finally select seven commissioners.

"Looking at the integrity aspect, the coalition has found that five people are connected to corruption, 11 had issues with honesty, eight are linked to cases of sexual harassment and 14 have issues involving religion," Totok said.

"This is our way to guide the selection process for members of Komnas HAM. We will continue to do this in the future. Our main goal is to strengthen and reform the commission to increase its quality in upholding the rights of every Indonesian," he said.

The Coalition to Save Komnas HAM consists of several human rights groups, including the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation (YLBHI) and PBHI.

The groups called for the reform of Komnas HAM in May, after several reports revealed that the commission had left some human rights cases unsolved.

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