Relatives of rights abuse victims have protested a presidential decree appointing Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin as deputy defense minister.
The group filed suit against the decree Monday at the
Jakarta State Administrative Court.
The survivors and families of human rights violations from the 1998 riots and the 1997/1998 kidnapping of student and political activists want the decree annulled.
Sjafrie was the Jakarta Military commander at the time, during which rioters targeted Chinese-Indonesian businesses and raped Chinese-Indonesian women in Jakarta and other cities across the country.
Thirteen student and political activists who went missing in the final years of Soeharto’s rule, widely believed to have been abducted by the military, remain unaccounted for.
A slew of human rights groups have accused Sjafrie of rights abuses during the 1998 riots, as well as during Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor.
He has never been brought before a court or tribunal to answer any of the accusations.
The plaintiffs filing suit Monday were represented by several rights groups, including the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute and the Setara Institute.
Kontras coordinator Usman Hamid told The Jakarta Post that Sjafrie’s appointment as deputy defense minister “could hamper future attempts to investigate his role in alleged rights violations”.
“Even when he was still a military commander he ignored a subpoena from the National Commission on Human Rights, so imagine how much more impunity this new position will afford him,” he said.
A rights commission team tasked with investigating the May 1998 riots summoned several military generals, including Sjafrie, former Armed Forces chief Gen. (ret.) Wiranto and former Army Strategic Reserves Command chief Lt. Gen. (ret.) Prabowo Subianto, for questioning in July 2003.
None of them showed up.
The team’s report highlighted the gravity of the rights violations during the riots and “indicated that the military leadership was responsible for those incidents, including Wiranto, Prabowo, Sjafrie and others”, said Abdul Hakim, the commission chairman at the time.
Wiranto and Prabowo have since gone into politics, both launching bids for vice president last year, which ultimately failed.
Wiranto set up his own political party, the People’s Conscience Party, or Hanura, while Prabowo fronts the Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra.
Setara Institute executive director Hendardi lambasted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for not taking Sjafrie’s controversial track record into consideration when choosing to name him the deputy defense minister.
He added Sjafrie’s appointment was illegal under the 2004 Indonesian Military Law, which prohibits serving officers from taking up political positions.
Yudhoyono swore in Sjafrie as deputy defense minister on Jan. 6, hours after he signed off on the decree for the appointment.
“We didn’t do anything at the time because we expected the President to issue a decree on the formation of an ad hoc human rights court ... after the House of Representatives recommended it back in September last year,” Usman said.
“If such a decree is issued, there would have to be an investigation into the 1998 riots, and Sjafrie could be named a suspect.”
The decree has not panned out.
“The deadline to contest Sjafrie’s appointment is drawing close, so we must act now,” Usman said.
The House pledged to seek a resolution to the 1998 riots and the killing of student activists in 1997 and 1998.
Rights victims file suit against Sjamsoeddin's appointment
Kompas - April 6, 2010
Jakarta -- On Monday April 5 the victims and families of victims of the abduction and forced disappearance of activists in 1997-1998, Semanggi I and II and Trisakti filed a suit with the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) against the President of the Republic of Indonesia over the president's decision to promote Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin as deputy defense minister.
The victims, namely Karsiah, Yati Ruyati, Mugiyanto, Tuti Koto and Nurhasanah, have appointed the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) as their legal attorney. They are asking the PTUN to annul, declare invalid or revoke a part of Presidential Decree Number 3/P/2010 on the Appointment of Deputy Ministers.
The president appointed three deputy ministers, namely Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, Deputy Minister for National Development Planning Lukita Dinarsyah Tuo and Deputy Education Minister Fasli Djalal, at the State Palace on January 6, 2010. At the time, Sjamsoeddin's appointment attracted protests.
There are two grounds for the suit according to Kontras coordinator Usman Hamid. The first is that the presidential decree violates the law because it appointed Sjamsoeddin -- who is still an active Indonesian military (TNI) officer -- to a civilian and political post. "This shows that that President Yudhoyono has no commitment to implementing civil supremacy," said Hamid.
The second reason is that based on input from the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), Sjamsoeddin should be examined by an ad hoc human rights court for human rights violations. The results of Komnas HAM's investigation clearly states that Sjamsoeddin is in part responsible for the abduction of 13 activists who disappeared in 1997-1998, the Trisakti shootings in 1998 and the Semanggi shootings in 1998 and 1999.
Although Sjamsoeddin has never been properly questioned as either a witness or suspect, according to Hamid, this is because the Attorney General's Office has failed to move on the case, yet Komnas HAM has clearly stated that Sjamsoeddin was involved. "Both as a TNI operational commander as well as Jakarta military commander," said Hamid.
Commenting on the case, Defence Ministry Public Relations Bureau Chief Wayan Midhio said the human rights issue is long past and has been proven to be valid. The reason being that Sjamsoeddin has never been examined as a witness, let alone a suspect. Midhio believes that the demands are largely political in nature. (EDN)
[Translated by James Balowski.]
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