6 August 2007

Write to Forget

by Imam Shofwan

Human right cases in Indonesia are never complete. Time and again fact–finding teams are formed and evidences is found. But the court have never successed in convicting those responsible. At most it is those in the field who get punished, while top brass remains untouchable, unaffected. It was goodly. Perperators of many human right in heavy weight instead taken look like immune.

The preperators of the 1965 massacres, for example, have even still never been named, let alone brought to trial. This despite the fact that Sarwo Edhie Wibowo—President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s father-in-law—has claimed that more than three milion people were killed in the at the time. Sarwo Edhie made this claim to Permadi, a legislator with Indonesian Democrat Party of Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan, PDI-P). Sarwo Edhie himself led the communist ”cleansing” operations in Java and Bali as ordered by Presiden Suharto. But it was not only communists who were killed in these operations, but also common people with little involvement in or understanding of politics whatever. This tragedy represents one of the greatest genocides witnessed in human history.

Lately demands circulate quite widely for Suharto to be held responsible for his wrongdoing, yet the 1965 massacre almost never gets mentioned in this context; instead it is the more commonplace charge of corruption that is so obsessively discussed. The genocide of 1965 remains a shadow in our national history our history. Never mind the fact that only recently President SBY requested Justice Agung Abdurraahman Saleh put aside even the corruption charges against Suharto.

What happens in the case of other humans rights violations? Most are equally disappointing. Every one of the military defendants on trial for the gross human rights abuses in Timor Lorosa’e, as well as all the military officers involved in the Tanjung Priok case have been freed, and this has had a dramatic impact as well on people’s faith in the the court system as well as the government.

Even the most basic internationally-acknowledged rights of victims are systematically ignored by the Indonesian state and legal apparatus. In fact, there are three fundamental rights which must maintain in the cases of victims of gross human rights violation. First, every victim is entitled to know the facts of the incident as thoroughly as possible. The government is thus responsible for investigation, protection of witnesses as well as victims, and for assuring access to all archival material related to the human-rights incident.

Second, the victim has a right to justice. This involves two further principles, viz people protection from reconciliation effort dan forgive effort who intent on preserve impunity also state duty for doing court administration.

Thrid, victims maintain the right to reparations, including assurance of restution, compensation, rehabilitation, and restitution for any special efforts inolved in the case. The right to reparation also demands a guarantee of no further repetition of the rights violation.

Mugiyanto, an activist with Ikatan Keluarga Orang Hilang (Union of Families of the Disappeared) notes that the government is not yet serious in handling human right cases. Mugi, as he is known to friends, and who has himself been abducted by Kopassus special forces, has been supportive of the case of the Tanjung Priok case victims. “The Human Right Court was only able to arrest low-ranking perpetrators from within the military, while Tri Sutrisno, who was at that time Pangdam Jaya remains free,” as Mugi points out.

Beside that, about 100 Tanjung Priok victims did not even receive compensation, ”despite the court having decided that victims would receive compensation, restution, and rehabilitation,” Mugi notes.

Most disappointing to Mugi was the decision of the Supreme Court to abrogate the judgement of the Human Rights Court in Central Jakarta by declaring that the Tanjung Priok case was not in fact a case of human rights violation. As a result, all perpetrators previously arrested were released.

Those signs were read by some of the legislators preparing the special Aceh Government Bill (RUU PA). They did not wish for human rights cases in Aceh to be similarly put on ice.

On May 17 2006 the comittee discussed a chapter on”Human Rights”. Ahmad Farhan Hamid, an Acehnese legislator from the National Order Party, noted at least serious cases of human rights violation in Aceh before the Memorandum of Understanding was reached betwen GAM and and the Central Government last August. Farhan noted the following cases:

1. Rape case in Pidie, August 16, 1988. The victim is a disabled woman named Sumiati.

2. Murder case, abduction, and maltreatment in Rumoh Geudong, Pidie Regency. This case began took place between 1997 and 1998, when Aceh became became an Area of Military Operation.

3. Murder and disappearance in Idi Cut and Arakundo, East Aceh, February 2-3, 1999.

4. Murder in Cut Murong, Dewantara Subdistrict, May 3, 1999. This case is known as the Simpang KAA case.

5. The massacre of Teungku Bantaqiah and his colleagues, July 23 1999.

Hamid learned of these cases from the Independent Commission for the Examination of Violence in Aceh. This commission was formed by fomer President BJ Habibie and legalized by Presidential Decree No. 8/1999. In the past ten years, beginning in1988-1999, the commision has already discovered roughly 5000 human right cases in Aceh. The five noted by Hamid represent only some of the most serious. The commision has recommended that these cases all be turned over to the Human Rights Court. In November 1999, the Supreme Court began preparing indictments for several of the figures involved. The result? Habibie resigned his post, and the cases were again put on ice.

In July 1998 Parliament formed a Composite Fact-finding Team. In roughly 4 months’ work, the team received roughly 1700 reports on human rights violations; including 426 pertaining to disappearances, and 320 on extra-judicial killings.

At almost the same time, around July-August 1998, The national Commission on Human Rights carried out its investigation on human rights violations in Aceh. The Commission was led then by the late Baharuddin Lopa. This commission collected data indicating the 781 deaths, 163 disappearances, 368 victims of maltreatment and 102 victims of rape, all between the years of 1998-1999.

Based on these findings the Commission concluded that the accumulated violation of human rights in Aceh were of the most severe kind: murder, brutal mistreatment, forced disappearance, forced arrest and confinement, rape and seizure of property.

According to the Suggestion of the Aceh Legislative council, the deadline for the formation of a Special Human Rights Court and Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Aceh is one year from the date of the Aceh Government amendment being approved and made into law. Yet the Home Office deleted the sections on the deadline from the proposed bill when they brought it to the Parliament.
Minister of Communication and Information Sofya Djalil, speaking as the government’s representative in that meeting suggested another solution.

Djalil suggested that all parties forgive one another. Djalil fastened his suggestion to Islamic tenets, noting ”seeking conclusion need not require adjudication.’

According to Djalil, Islam provides three methods for problem-solving; these include is qishas (proportional punishment—death for the murderer, for example), diyat (the payment of fine) and finally, forgiveness.

Decisions on whether to avail of qishas, diyat or forgiveness will depend on levels of faith.
”Best is to forgive,” he concludes.

Ahmad Farhan Hamid is not opposed to the principle of forgiveness, just so long as it is preceded by the necessary judicial process. Reconciliation in Aceh can only be secured by the attainment of justice. This is Hamid’s conviction.

The court’s aim to discover who is truly at fault. Forgiveness or pardon can be granted later, should the victim and her family agree. The South African experience following the collapse of the apartheid regime provides an example. All perpetrators gave witness while seated accross from the familiies of their victims. Nothing was concealed or covered-up. Mandela himself guaranteed the safety of the witnesses.

The reactions of victims and their families to such testimony can varies widely. There are those who forgive with an openheart. Many feel enraged since meeting with the perpetrator reminds them of the loved ones who were killed. Still, following such a process, reconciliation can carry on without obstacles. Reverenge becomes a part of the past. But what about in the case of Indonesia?

Although Hamid remains enthusiastic in writing that cases, in his heart of his hearts, he still doubts whether the cases will be pursued and justice upheld. He concludes, ”This is what I mean when I say write to forget.”[end]

Translated by Scott Schlossberg, Doctoral Candidate Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies UC Berkeley.
Indonesian version of this article uploaded in www.pantau.or.id.