Presidential debate showed candidates' lack of commitment to human rights: Kontras

Source – December 13, 2023
Presidential candidates Ganjar Pranowo, Prabowo Subianto and Anies Baswedan – December 12, 2023 (Antara)

Ihsanuddin, Jakarta – The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has given its assessment of the inaugural presidential election debate that was held at the General Elections Commission (KPU) offices in Jakarta on Tuesday December 12.

Kontras working body coordinator Dimas Bagus Arya Saputra said that the candidates' discourse on dealing with cases of gross human rights abuses was unclear.

Saputra also believes that the individual candidates failed to present any ideas or strategies to resolve past rights violations.

"The strategies and methods from the three presidential candidates on resolving cases of past gross human rights violations in the momentum of the presidential candidate debate were zero", said Saputra in a written release on Wednesday December 13.

Yet, said Saputra, debating ideas in terms of strategy and methods is an absolute must in order to test the responsibility of each presidential candidate in comprehensively fulfilling the rights of victims of gross human rights violations.

Especially in relation to the right to justice, the right to truth, the right to effective rehabilitation, so that there are guarantees that gross rights abuses will not be repeated.

Dimas also touched on the discussion about past rights violations after presidential candidate number 3, former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo, directed a question at candidate number 2, Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) Chairperson Prabowo Subianto.

In the discussion, Kontras believes that presidential candidates number 2 did not show a firm commitment to resolving past rights violations, especially the abduction and disappearance of pro-democracy activists in 1997-98.

"No courage was shown by presidential candidate number 2 (Prabowo Subianto) in committing to resolving cases of gross human rights violations", he said.

In addition to this, Saputra also believers that all of the candidates failed to grasp the problem of brutality by police that occurred in the fatal Kanjuruhan soccer stampede in 2022 and the Kilometre 50 fatal shooting of six bodyguards of Islamic cleric Rizieq Shihab in 2020.

During the debate, candidate number 1, former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan asked Pranowo about the two cases.

According to Saputra however, not one of the candidates explained that the main problem in the two tragedies was the issue of the culture of violence in the police as an institution.

"For years and years the Bhayangkara Corps [the police] have seemed trapped in excessive and brutal actions so that these actions claim victims in the community", he said.

In addition to this, said Saputra, various efforts to resolve these cases were far from accountable, the perpetrators were given light punishments and many escaped punishment all together.

"It is this issue which causes incidents of violence by the police to continue to be repeated. The three candidates should be able to show the courage to carry out total reform of the police as an institution, both structurally, culturally and instrumentally, or more concretely for example through tightening supervision", he said.


In 1997-98 as many as 23 pro-democracy activists were abducted by members of the Army's 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 commander Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto, who was at the time President Suharto's son-in-law, has admitted to ordering the abductions but claims they were all released alive and well. He was subsequently discharged from the military over the abductions but has never been tried in court.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Catatan Kontras untuk Debat Perdana, Para Capres Dinilai Minim Komitmen Tuntaskan Pelanggaran HAM Berat".]