Demonstrators commemorate world human rights day

Kompas – December 11, 2003
International Human Rights day rally in Jakarta (Antara)
International Human Rights day rally in Jakarta (Antara)

Jakarta – On Wednesday December 10, hundreds of students, youths and non-government organisation activists, victims of land evictions and farmers came out into the streets to commemorate world human rights day. They condemned the lack of commitment by the government and the political elite in dealing with cases of human rights violations in Indonesia and demanded that the generals who have violated human rights be brought before the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court.

The action – which was held in conjunction with an anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal action – was held to coincide with a meeting of the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI). Similar actions occurred in a other parts of the country such as Semarang, Palembang and Samarinda.

In Jakarta, two students from the Mercu Buana University, Eko and Nurhadi, were arrested by police in front of the Presidential Palace. They were arrested because they were alleged to have held an action without informing the authorised body [police] about the plan.

A number of NGOs who are active in human rights advocacy such as the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Association of Families of Missing Persons in Indonesia (Ikohi), Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) and the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) participated in the action.

Student elements such as those from the Trisakti University, the Jayabaya University and the Mercu Buana University as well as non-campus based groups such as the Indonesian Youth Front for Struggle (FPPI) and City Front also joined yesterday’s action.

This year actions were held at various points simultaneously, in the area of Semanggi, at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout, the United Nations building, the national parliament building, the Bank Indonesia building and the Presidential Palace.

In its statement, FPPI demanded that ex-President Suharto be tried for his economic, political and human rights crimes during the period he was in power. FPPI also demanded an end to land evictions and the use of the military to resolve conflicts. The Anti-Imperialist and Violations of Human Rights Front demanded an end to the military operations in Aceh, West Papua and Maluku islands.

In particular they also condemned the land evictions by the Jakarta provincial government which they considered to be a violation against the economic and social rights of the people.

Kontras coordinator, Usman Hamid, told journalists that the commemoration of human rights day was held as a call to the state to investigate past human rights violations. According Usman, society views the old political parties and even the new ones which participated in the 1999 elections as having being proven not to have a commitment to investigate cases of human rights violations.

If in the 2004 elections there are no political parties which have an agenda to investigate human rights cases, there is no political party therefore which is suitable to be elected. “If truly there is not political party which is suitable, the people not only have the right to vote, but also have the right not to vote”, said Usman emphatically.

Struggling for themselves

LBH Jakarta, which held the human rights day commemoration together with a number of victims of human rights violations, stated that because the government cannot be expected to struggle for human rights, the people should be called on to struggle for their rights which have been violated.

“If social groups are not capable of struggling for their own rights, then there are a number of non-government organisations, such as the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation which are ready to assist this process of struggle”, said LBH Jakarta director Uli Parulian Sihombing.

During the commemoration the Jakarta Human Rights Charter was read out which was drafted by a number of trade unions, pro-democracy groups, women’s and human rights activists, ex-political prisoners and victims of land evictions. Within the charter it referred to all victims of human rights violations has having the right to have their cases resolved fairly though an open and transparent legal process and to obtain fair compensation and the rehabilitation of their good name.

According to Uli, the theme of this year’s human rights day was the respect for the right to a place to live. This theme he said, was extremely appropriated given the conditions in Jakarta at the moment where there have been numerous land evictions in a number of places.

During the commemoration, the LBH Jakarta Commendation was awarded to the people East Ancol Fisherpeople Society who have struggled for their settlement from which they were evicted in 2001. This commendation was given to them because they were viewed as having consistently struggled for the right to a place to live though legal channels without the use of violence.

On the same day, the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) held a press conference and stated that the state had failed to block the power of the New Order [regime of former President Suharto] which was behind a number of gross human rights violations.

“One of the important elements in evaluating the protection of human rights is though viewing the process of the restructuring the political order. This has not yet been done by the present government”, said YLBHI chairperson Munarman.

Actions and speeches

In Samarinda, East Kalimantan, a commemoration of human rights day was organised by a number of social elements with a demonstration and long-march in a number of streets in the city. The action ended at the offices of the East Kalimantan governor.

Prior to this, they held an action at the offices of the Samarinda State Prosecutor. The falling rain did not prevent scores of activist from the Islamic Students Association (HMI), the National Student League for Democracy (LMND), the Mulawarman University Student Executive Council and Pokja 30 from joining together under the banner of the East Kalimantan People’s Movement for Human Rights from continuing their action.

In her speech, Brigitta Edna from the Forum on Violence Against Women emphasised the minimal attention the government has given to the issue of violence against women.

In Palembang, South Sumatra, a number of NGOs from the People’s Committee for Human Rights held a rally from the Monument of the People’s Struggle to the offices of the South Sumatra governor.

“In Palembang there have been at least seven cases of beatings and threats against demonstrators by police and unidentified groups which have been ignored by the police”, the internal director of LBH Palembang Anggiat stressed.

In Semarang, the commemoration of human rights day was held by scores of activists from the Poor People’s Front for Struggle (FPRM) with a demonstration at the city’s Waterfall Roundabout on Jalan Pahlawan. (WIS/WIN/DOT/RAY/K09/WHO)

[Translated by James Balowski.]