Subject: JP: Right Trials Could Mean Curtains for TNI's Top Brass

Jakarta Post March 27, 2000

Right trials could mean curtains for TNI's top brass

JAKARTA (JP): Human rights abuses by the Indonesian Military (TNI) were so common during the New Order regime that the country would stand to lose most of its top officers if all the offenders were punished, a human rights activist said on Saturday.

Speaking at a seminar in Surabaya, National Commission on Human Rights secretary-general Asmara Nababan predicted a military rebellion would erupt if all of the rights offenders were taken to court.

"Human rights violations in Indonesia involved about 30 to 40 generals, and about 200 to 300 lieutenant colonels and colonels. So if all of them are prosecuted, then the military would be depleted," said Asmara.

The one-day seminar on the "Realization of Peace in the Pluralistic Society" was organized by Surabaya University.

To avoid such a scenario, President Abdurrahman Wahid has assigned Minister of Law and Legislation Yusril Ihza Mahendra to draft a bill on the establishment of a commission for truth and reconciliation, Asmara said.

"The investigation of all human rights abuses and the prosecution of all violators will need a long time and consume all the energy needed to develop our country," Asmara said.

But he said the county could learn from the experiences of about 25 countries which were able to resolve human rights abuses through national reconciliation commissions.

He noted the experiences of Chile, El Salvador and Argentina, which succeeded in enforcing laws on human rights crimes without excessive confrontation with the military.

The country should also designate the period in which abuses occurred to determine who was subject to prosecution, he said.

He proposed that the government assign the commission for truth and reconciliation, after its formal establishment, to investigate cases which occurred from 1965 to 1995.

The National Commission on Human Rights itself will only concentrate on cases which occurred after 1995, Asmara said.

Asmara proposed the government select about seven people to manage the independent commission for a period of about three years before they were replaced by new board members.

In line with the government plan to set up human rights courts, Asmara proposed the courts only deal with major human rights abuses.

Tanjung Priok

In his capacity as a member of the Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violation (KPP HAM) in Tanjung Priok, Asmara said the commission would quiz three retired and active Army top brass next month in connection with the 1984 incident.

Asmara said the commission would seek testimony from former vice president Gen. (ret) Try Sutrisno, Gen. (ret) L.B. Moerdani and Maj. Gen. R.A. Butar Butar because of their positions in the armed forces when the violence took place.

Moerdani was the Armed Forces commander, Try the Jakarta Military commander and Butar Butar the North Jakarta Military commander.

Controversy has shrouded the number fatalities during the clash, which erupted following tension-charged lectures in Tanjung Priok's Rawa Badak Mosque by preachers who reportedly criticized the government. The military authorities claimed 40 people were killed but eyewitnesses said they saw a truck loaded with charred bodies.

Try has ruled out any possibility for him to testify before the commission, saying the matter was an institutional matter within the military, not his own.

Nababan said no one had been named a suspect in connection with the violence.

"So far we have not implicated anyone. We still need to hear from those in charge at that time. Why it happened, who gave the commands and who executed the orders. All must be cleared up." (prb/nur/emf/edt)

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