Prabowo must clarify statement on whereabouts of abducted activists

Kompas – May 6, 2014
Former Kopassus commander Prabowo Subianto with Indonesian actress Yati Octavia (Tribune)
Former Kopassus commander Prabowo Subianto with Indonesian actress Yati Octavia (Tribune)

Rio Kuswandi, Jakarta – Former army Special Forces (Kopassus) commander Prabowo Subianto is being urged to give an immediate clarification on the abduction of 13 activists abducted in 1997/98 that are still missing to this day. This clarification by the presidential candidate for the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra Party) should not just be conveyed via the mass media.

“If Prabowo wishes to clarity the matter don’t [just] do it though the mass media. Likewise for Wiranto. If he does indeed have the guts to make a clarification please do it at an ad hoc human rights court hearing the case of the forced abductions”, said the mother of Wawan, one of the victims of the Semanggi I fatal shooting of student activists in 1998 at the offices of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) on Monday May 5.

In the upheaval of the period leading up to reformasi (the process of political reform that began in 1998), Subianto was the commander of Tim Mawar (Rose Team), the team of soldiers that allegedly carried out the abduction of activists and students. Meanwhile the presidential candidate from the People’s Conscious Party (Hanura Party) Wiranto was at the time the commander of the Indonesian armed forces (ABRI).

Sumarsih is calling the goodwill of Subianto and Wiranto to clearly reveal the mystery of the disappearance of the activists so that legal action can be taken as soon as possible. According to Sumarsih, they should not be thinking about becoming presidential candidates if they are still mired in burdens of the past.

“If [they] do indeed love the nation then don’t [just] join the race as presidential candidates. Please with a great heart push for the formation of a human rights court”, said Sumarsih.

One of the victims of the abductions who was released, Mugiyanto, believes it is inappropriate for Subianto to become president because he still has moral issues from the past. “If Prabowo becomes president, in the future if could well be that we would disappear people who are at odds with us”, he said.

The groups that make up the Movement Against Forgetting (GML) believe that the statement by former Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad, Green Berets) Chief of Staff Major General Kivlan Zen could provide a point of clarification that could lead to a resolution to the case of the 13 activists that disappeared in 1998.

During a debate aired by TV One titled “Which Presidential Candidates have Violate Human Rights” on Monday April 28, Zen admitted to knowing the whereabouts and fate of the 13 missing activists. During the television broadcast, Zen said, “Those that were abducted and disappeared, I know where they are. [They were] shot, dumped...”. The GML believes that this sentence confirms that the abductions actually happened and must be immediately processed legally.

Earlier, Subianto stated that he was ready to clarify a number of issues associated with him and the 1998 affair. “I left the military with citations and stories. If necessary, I am ready to provide clarification”, he said during a break in a friendly meeting of the central leadership board of the Armed Forces and Police Veterans Association as quoted by Kompas Newspaper on April 25.


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.]