Subject: Retroactive Principle in Rights Law Still Possible: Minister

Indonesian Observer 1st February 2000

Rights draft law gives no favors to suspects: Minister

JAKARTA (IO) —Law and Legislation Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra promises that the drawing up of the law on human rights trial will be neutral, saying that it is aimed neither to benefit a certain group nor to protect the suspects.

"There is no such motive. It is a mere legal problem because our legal infrastructure is full of shortcomings," Mahendra told reporters at his office in Jakarta yesterday.

He was commenting on queries concerning the discussions to be held between his ministry and legislators on the draft law of human rights trial.

Mahendra had on December 17 handed over the draft law on the human rights trial to Parliament. The law will become the legal basis for the trials of those involved in human rights abuses.

The minister also said he hopes the human rights trials, mainly the trial of those involved in East Timor human rights abuse, can be held in Indonesia. "It is hoped that the trial could be held in Indonesia. It is a matter of the nation’s dignity," he added.

He added that in many other countries, such as Netherlands, Germany, England, and Libya, they can hold trials for their citizens who commit crimes in foreign countries.

Touching on the absence of the retroactive principle that is not included in the draft law, he said: "This is only a draft. There will be more drafts that can be modified. The inclusion of a retroactive principle is still possible," he said.

The retroactive principle refers to the possible implementation of the current law to any crimes that took place in the past.

Mahendra said that his ministry, on behalf of the government, cannot make decisions because any decisions should be made through an agreement of the political elite.

"If the law is made applicable for crime in the past, there must be agreement on what the past is," he said, adding that if it is applicable for crimes in the past there will be groups that feel discomforted.

The ministry’s director general for Law and Legislation Romli Atmasasmita meanwhile said that the draft law is not final yet. "Concerning the implementation of a retroactive principle, there must be limitation of time," he added.

That is why we need to discuss the issue with legislators, he said.

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