Witanto – Activists from Pemalang, Tegal and Brebes, Central Java, united in the declaration of the founding of the regional chapter of the Democratic People's Forum (Forum Rakyat Demokratik, FRD) for Justice for the Families of Victims of Enforced Disappearances.
This event took place at Padepokan Lintang Kemukus Paduraksa in Pemalang, Central Java, on Sunday October 22. The declaration was attended by labor activists, farmers and artists.
Pemalang-Tegal-Brebes FRD chairperson Andi Rustono emphasised the importance of supporting the resolution of past human rights violations.
He asserted that activists must unite to prevent a presidential candidate from running in the 2024 elections who was involved in the abductions.
"Based on data from the Indonesian Association of the Families of Missing Persons (Ikohi), there are still 13 people who have not returned home to this day. These activists were forcibly disappeared just before the collapse of the New Order [regime of former president Suharto] in 1998", said Rustono.
Among them are four activists from the Democratic People's Party (PRD), including Wiji Thukul, Petrus Bima Anugerah, Herman Hendrawan and Suyat. "Meanwhile, Gilang was found dead in the Magetan forest on May 23, 1998", he added.
Rustono noted that in October 2009, the House of Representatives (DPR) issued four recommendations to the President of the Republic of Indonesia on resolving the 1997-98 cases of enforced disappearances:
- First, recommending that the President of the Republic of Indonesia form an ad hoc Human Rights Court.
- Second, recommending that the President of the Republic of Indonesia along with government institutions and related parties find the 13 activists that are still missing.
- Third, recommending that the government rehabilitate and provide compensation to the families of the victims who are missing.
- Fourth, recommending that the government ratify the International Convention on Enforced Disappearances as a form of commitment and support to end the practice of enforced disappearances in Indonesia.
Rustono also emphasised that activists must continue to push for the resolution of these dark cases in history. These measures must not only be non-judicial, but also be through a legal process.
On a separate occasion, FRD activist and former PRD Secretary General Petrus Hariyanto said that the government should immediately resolve cases of human rights violations.
"Resolving cases of human rights violations will be difficult if the country is led by a politician was in fact once involved in the abductions as well as past human rights violations", explained Hariyanto.
Hariyanto also said he regrets the fact that in the run-up to the 2024 presidential elections, many former activists had provided support to the presidential candidate who was involved in the abductions.
"Don't forget history, especially the abduction cases. Activists must not be part of a movement that wants to forget historical crimes in the past. This practice will only prolong impunity", emphasised Hariyanto.
The FRD, according to Hariyanto, will continue to fight against the presidential candidate who was involved in the abductions, regardless of which vice presidential candidate they will partner with.
The PRD was first declared nationally at the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) offices in Jakarta on July 27, 2023.
Led by former PRD activists such as Hariyanto, Wilson, Anom Astika, Roso Suroso, Lilik HS and friends, the FRD is fighting to resolve cases of enforced disappearances and other human rights violations in the country.
Aside from calling for not electing a presidential candidate who was involved in the abductions, the FRD also rejects political practices that foster intolerance in Indonesia.
FRD also held a commemoration of missing poet and PRD activists Wiji Thukul's 60th birthday on August 23. The event was held at the National Gallery in Jakarta and was attended by hundreds of people. The event was also to remind people that Thukul and his colleagues have still not returned home.
In 1997-98 as many as 23 pro-democracy activists were abducted by members of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus). After extended periods of detention – in many cases the victims were severely tortured – most were released although 13 (including Thukul) remain missing and are presumed dead. Former Kopassus commander Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto, who was at the time President Suharto's son-in-law, has admitted to ordering the abductions but claims they were all released alive and well. He was subsequently discharged from the military over the abductions but has never been tried in court. Currently serving as Defense Minister, he is running as a presidential candidate in the 2024 elections.
Following a widely reported meeting with Prabowo in July 2023, Former PRD Chairperson Budiman Sudjatmiko publically expressed his support for Prabowo's presidential bid and stated that the former Special Forces general should not be held hostage by past human rights abuses. In response dozens of former PRD activists held a press conference in Jakarta and accused Sudjatmiko of betraying the reform movement and called for perpetrators of past rights abuses to be arrested and tried.
- Marking Wiji Thukul's 60th birthday, activists remind state to solve past abuses. Kompas.com – August 26, 2023
- Former PRD members accuse Budiman of betraying the struggle for reformasi. Tribun Jakarta – July 27, 2023
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "FRD Serukan Jangan Pilih Capres Terlibat Kasus Penculikan".]