Subject: New Indonesia truth commission law sought

New truth commission law sought

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Both the government and non-governmental organizations acknowledged Tuesday the need for a new Truth and Reconciliation Commission law that would be focused on the pursuit of justice for victims.

The 2004 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Law was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in December 2006. This decision disbanded the commission and could hinder other human rights efforts in Indonesia.

Director of human rights counseling at the Justice and Human Rights Ministry Mulatingsih said that her office understood the need for a new law on the commission in order to maintain the unity of the state.

"Even though we haven't received a specific order to draft a new regulation for this commission, we have taken the initiative to gather recommendations for drafting the new bill with our colleagues in non-governmental organizations," said Mulatingsih.

She added that the Constitutional Court's ruling on the 2004 law had not stopped the government from continuing its pursuit of justice for human rights abuse victims and for punishment of the perpetrators.

Senior associate of the International Center for Transitional Justice Galuh Wandita said victims had the right to have their good names, status and property restored. Galuh said that justice for the victims was not only about bringing perpetrators to trial or paying a sum of money as compensation.

"We should be creative in imagining the best justice to remedy the plight of the victims," she said.

She suggested that any remedy should involve an official apology from the government, an official declaration that restored the victims' rights and a memorial ceremony or erection of a monument recognizing the victims' ordeal.

"The trauma of human rights violations lingers years after the events took place. The state should give victims their rights, which will not fade even after years have passed," said Galuh, citing the case of a victim of sexual slavery in East Timor who had four children from different Indonesian soldiers and was now unable to function due to mental distress from the trauma she endured.

She recommended that the government plan a national reparation program focusing on the most vulnerable victims.

"The program should involve support for the most affected communities, such as disabled persons and widows and children, and a commitment to never commit violence again. Also, 50 percent of the reparation program should prioritize women," said Galuh.

Head of Syarikat Indonesia Imam Aziz said the reconciliation process should also include the reconciliation of ideologies. He said that his organization had revived several traditional cultures which had been stereotyped as communist due to their inherent characteristics.

"Victims of the 1965 tragedy have been stigmatized by the idea that everything about communism is evil. The state should eliminate this stigma, thus rehabilitating their status in society," he said.

He added that religious bodies should be involved in the drafting process and that members of such bodies should be recruited as commission members.

Asmara Nababan, a human rights activist and former member of the National Commission on Human Rights, said that the victims were the ones who should define the meaning of justice for themselves.

"Therefore, we should let the victims have their say on this issue. We should find out whether they really need this commission," he said.

Asmara added that the new law should set a time limit for the investigation of past cases by the commission.

"In other countries, the time limits for such commissions are clear. I suggest that the time limit in Indonesia be 1959, when we shifted our constitution," he said.

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