Subject: TAPOL: Suharto and the military win immunity from MPR

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human rights Campaign issued the following Press Release today:

PRESS RELEASE 18 August 2000

SUHARTO AND MILITARY WIN IMMUNITY FROM MPR International Tribunal for East Timor is now urgent

The Indonesian People's Assembly (MPR) has this week granted immunity to Suharto and members of the Indonesian armed forces from charges for crimes again humanity and war crimes, despite widespread demands in the country for those responsible for such crimes during the 32-year dictatorship to be brought to justice.

The MPR approved an amendment to the Indonesian Constitution which states that 'the right not to be charged on the basis of retroactivity is a basic human right that may not be breached under any circumstances'. Indonesian human rights organisations and lawyers have strongly denounced the amendment as a move to protect the military against indictment for their past crimes.

TAPOL strongly condemns this decision and calls on governments worldwide to make it clear to the Indonesian government that such a decision will gravely damage Indonesia's reputation as a country that adheres to the principles of international humanitarian law which requires that the principle of non-retroactivity should be waived where grave past human rights violations need to be brought to justice.

Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL said: 'At a time when Chile is being hailed for revoking the immunity enjoyed by Pinochet, Indonesia's supreme legislative body has given the country's former dictator and scores of senior armed forces officers immunity from charges for the innumerable crimes they committed during the 32 years of Suharto's rule.'

TAPOL believes that the MPR decision reinforces the case for the UN Security Council to set up an international tribunal for East Timor without delay. Until now, members of the Security Council have argued that time should be given to Indonesia to create the appropriate court for these crimes to be tried in the country.

Several special commissions in Indonesia have been investigating past crimes but their efforts will come to nought if the persons they identify as being culpable cannot be tried for crimes against humanity. It will apply most immediately to the judicial investigations now underway into the crimes committed by the armed forces and army-backed militias in East Timor before and after the UN ballot there which devastated the country, forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee and resulted in hundreds of deaths.

The amendment will mean that a provision included in a draft law now before the Indonesian parliament, the DPR, which would allow ad hoc human rights courts to be set up to handle past crimes against humanity will have to be removed.

For further information and interviews, contact Carmel Budiardjo on the above number

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