Government claims not all rights cases can be tried in court due to lack of evidence

Detik News – November 1, 2022
Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs Mahfud MD – Undated (Antara)

Brigitta Belia Permata Sari, Jakarta – Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs Mahfud MD says that not all human rights cases can be taken to court. According to Mahfud, there a number of obstacles which make it difficult to settle these cases in court.

Mahfud began by relating a story about a request from President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on the handling of human rights cases. The president asked that all of the cases being handled by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) be taken before the courts.

"The president once gave directions like this, the government is always accused of not wanting to settle human rights violations. The president even said, 'Pak [Mr Mahfud] that's enough, take all of the cases being handled by the Komnas HAM to the courts. Let the law decide'", said Mahfud at the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI) building in Jakarta on Tuesday November 1.

According to Mahfud however, the Attorney General told him that not all of the case could be taken to court.

"The Attorney General disagreed, 'Pak, If I take all of them to court, and there's something for which there's no evidence it would mean [we're] being unprofessional. Later we'll be [publically] embarrassed'", he said.

Mahfud related how several gross human rights violation cases could not be taken to court because there was a lack of strong evidence, such as the violence in 1965, which is considered to be a gross human rights violation.

"There are big problems in settling them through the courts with these cases of gross human rights [violations], it's not easy. It's not easy because there's no evidence. One of the cases is '65, before, when it was to be taken to trial it couldn't be done, it was handed over to the Attorney General but he couldn't, because there was no evidence", he said.

Mahfud then gave the example of how cases of violence in East Timor were taken to court. However there was no evidence that could support a case of human rights violations.

"We once tried the cases in East Timor, we brought 38 people to court after getting permission from the Komnas HAM, and those 38 people were all set free because there was no evidence", he explained.

Focus on victims, not perpetrators

Mahfud claimed that the recently formed Team for the Non-Judicial Resolution of Past Gross Human Rights Violations (PPHAM) and Komnas HAM are communicating routinely to match up evidence on human rights cases.

"We we are continuously communicating with the Komnas HAM to match up the evidence. Currently we are forming a non-judicial team", he said.

The PPHAM will focus on the victims, not the perpetrators. The perpetrators meanwhile, will be part of Komnas HAM's work.

"What's in question here is the victims, not the perpetrators. If it's the perpetrators, let Komnas HAM take care of it. Let the DPR [House of Representatives] decide. Let the Attorney General speak to the DPR. Because [if] we pursue the perpetrators it will be very difficult to settle it in court. But if it's [resolved through] non-judicial [channels] we can look to the victims", he added. (ok/ok)


When the majority of East Timorese voted not to remain part of Indonesia in the 1999 UN sponsored referendum, the Indonesian military and its proxy militias unleashed a wave of violence that killed more than 1,000 people and displaced 300,000 others. Under growing international pressure, Jakarta promised to punish those responsible. Courts in Jakarta subsequently charged 18 people – most from the police and military – with human rights crimes, but 12 were acquitted and four others had their sentences overturned on appeal. This did not include senior military officers such as armed forces chief Wiranto and other senior field officers – none of whom have been held accountable to this day – despite being indicted for war crimes by the UN Serious Crimes Unit in 2003.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Mahfud Md Nilai Tak Semua Masalah HAM Bisa Dibawa ke Pengadilan".]