Activists say Prabowo must be held accountable for 97/98 abductions

Okezone – May 5, 2014
Former Kopassus commander Prabowo Subianto (Okezone)
Former Kopassus commander Prabowo Subianto (Okezone)

Rizka Diputra, Jakarta – The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) is calling on official state institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and even the president to act upon a statement by former Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad, Green Berets) Chief of Staff Major General Kivlan Zen.

During a debate aired by TV One titled “Which Presidential Candidates have Violate Human Rights” on April 28, Zen admitted to knowing the whereabouts of the graves of the victims of the 1997-98 abduction of political activists by the army’s elite Special Forces (Kopassus).

“Both [Zen and former Kopassus commander Prabowo Subianto] must be questioned over the case of the forced disappearance of the activists in 1997/1998”, said Kontras activist Yati Andriyani at a press conference by the Movement Against Forgetting (GML) at the Kontras office in Central Jakarta on Monday May 5.

Andriyani was referring to Article 42 of Law Number 26/200 on Human Rights Courts and Article 6 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CPED).

There, she said, it notes that a military commander can be held responsible for actions carried out by troops under their command and effective control over or the consequences of not maintaining effective control over troops.

“Prabowo as the former commander of Kopassus, the superior office of Tim Mawar [Rose Team] cannot escape accountability for the 13 victims that are still missing”, she said.

Andriyani explained that the principle of nebis in idem (a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime) in the case is invalid because there is a different jurisdiction between a military tribunal and a human rights court. In 1999 a military tribunal only tried 11 Kopassus members from the Rose Team.

“In this context, the military tribunal failed to elaborate on the fate of the 13 other victims that remain missing to this day, who at the time were imprisoned at the same location as the victims that were released [alive]”, she said.

Furthermore, Andriyani is calling on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to immediately form a team to search for the 13 victims and issue a presidential decree on the formation of a human rights court to hear the case of the forced disappearances in 1997/98. She also called on the AGO to conduct an immediate investigation in accordance with the recommendations of the House of Representatives in 2009.

“The recommendation of the Indonesian Ombudsman in 2013 was that the undue delays and mal-administration of the case end immediately and that the victims’ [families] receive legal certainty”, she asserted.

The GKL was initiated by several human rights NGOs including, among others, Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial), Kontras, the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), the Institute for Public Research and Advocacy (Elsam), Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), the People’s Politics (Politik Rakyat), the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), the Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers), the Democracy Institute, the Solidarity Action Committee for Munir and Udin (KASUM), the Solidarity Network for the Families of Victims (JSKK), Indonesian Association of the Families of Missing Persons (IKOHI), the Ridep Institute, the National Consortium for Legal Reform (KRHN), the Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat), the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, Free Women (Perempuan Mahardika), the Surabaya Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Surabaya) and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI).


Between 1997 and 1998 as many as 23 pro-democracy activists were abducted by members of the elite Special Forces Kopassus. After extended periods of detention – in many cases the victims were severely tortured – most were released although 13 remain missing and are presumed dead. Former Kopassus chief Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto who was at the time President Suharto’s son-in-law is alleged to have ordered the abductions. In April 1999, 11 low-ranking Kopassus officers were tried by a military court for the kidnappings and given sentences of between a year and 22 months in prison, although six of them were allowed to remain in the army. Subianto himself was discharged from the military for ordering the abductions but has never been tried.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service.]