AGO, House slammed for claim 1998 shootings not human rights violations

CNN Indonesia – January 16, 2020
Soldier stands over victim of Semanggi I student shootings in Jakarta – November 13, 1998 (Wikipedia)

Jakarta – Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Coordinator Yati Andriyani has slammed a statement by Attorney General ST Burhanuddin who declared that the Semanggi I and II student shootings in 1998 were not gross human rights (HAM) violations.

Burhanuddin made the statement based on the results of the House of Representative (DPR) plenary meeting which declared that the two cases were not gross human rights violations. The declaration was not based on an investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO).

“The party which has the right to declare whether or not it’s a gross human right violation is not the DPR because the DPR is a legislative body. We condemn the statement”, said Andriyani during a Kamisan Action (Thursday Action) in front of the State Palace on Thursday January 16. Today marks the 13th year of Kamisan actions.

Andriyani said that based on Law Number 26/200 on Human Rights Courts, the party which has the mandate to declare whether or not something is a gross human rights violation is the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) which investigates an incident, the AGO which then conducts a criminal investigation and prosecution and a Human Rights Court which tries the perpetrators. The DPR meanwhile is not included as one of these parties.

Andriyani suspects that the statement was made purely on political grounds so that the incident won’t be resolved in accordance with existing regulations and the constitution.

“Does the Attorney General actually understand the law or not. Why is he as an investigator which has the authority [to investigate and prosecute] instead deferring to a decision by the DPR where this is a political decision”, she said.

According to Andriyani, the DPR only has the authority to recommend to the president that an ad hoc Human Rights Court be established. Because of this therefore, she is urging President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to immediately take action to solve past gross human rights violations.

“Don’t be fickle, done hesitate, and don’t pretend by always declaring that you’ll solve [the cases] but then make policy decisions which are often counterproductive”, she said.

Maria Sumarsih, the mother of one of the victims, student Benardinus Realino Norma Imawan, who was killed during the Semanggi I affair, believes that Burhanuddin’s statement further convinces her that Indonesia is a country of impunity or one where the perpetrators of crimes are not prosecuted.

“This statement further legitimises the view that Indonesia is not a law abiding country anymore, but a country of impunity”, she said.

Sumarsih also questioned why Burhanuddin’s statement only touched on the Semanggi I and II affairs. Yet there are many other cases of gross human rights violations which must be resolved.

“[The 1998] Trisakti [student shootings], other cases in 1998, the May [1998] riots, the forced disappearances [in 1997-98], why weren’t they mentioned? This is our obligation, [it is the obligation of] youth to fight for legal supremacy and upholding HAM”, she said.

Earlier, Burhanuddin asserted that the Semanggi I and II student shootings in 1998 were not gross human rights violations based on the plenary meeting with the DPR.

“On the Semanggi I and Semanggi II affairs, the result of the DPR’s plenary meeting was that it was declared that these incidents do not represent gross HAM violations”, said Burhanuddin following the meeting with the DPR’s Commission III.

Burhanuddin did not say when the meeting with the DPR was held only that the statement was based on an earlier meeting and not based on an investigation by the AGO.

Kontras itself, on its official website, notes that on July 9, 2001, a DPR plenary meeting heard the results of a report by a special committee into the Trisakti, Semanggi I and II incidents.

During the meeting, three political party factions, namely the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Love for the Nation Democratic Party (PDKB) and the National Awakening Party (PKB) stated that the Trisakti, Semanggi I and II (TSS) incidents contained the elements of gross human rights violations.

Conversely, the other factions, namely the Golkar Party, the TNI/Polri (Indonesian military/police) faction, the United Development Party (PPP), the Crescent Star Party (PBB), the Reformasi Faction, the Indonesian Nationhood Unity Party (KKI) and the Daulat Ummah Party (PDU) declared that the TSS were not gross human rights violations.

On September 4, 2001 however, the group Families of the TSS Victims held an audience at the Supreme Court and were received by then Supreme Court chief justice M Taufiq along with Supreme Court Judge Laica Marzuki and a number of other national figures.

During the audience it was declared that the recommendations by the DPR special committee on Trisakti, Semanggi I and II did not have legal standing because the recommendation was not a law which could be tested by the Supreme Court. (psp/wis)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “KontraS: DPR Tak Berhak Beri Status Pelanggaran HAM Semanggi”.]