National

Govt slammed for human
rights abuses

Fatimah Azzahra, the daughter of a 1984 Tanjung Priok massacre victim, shook hands with Paramadina University rector Anies Baswedan after being awarded a scholarship from the university.

"This is part of our effort to assure these victims that they still have a future despite the tragedy," Anies told hundreds of human rights victims who were gathered at the office of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) here on Thursday.

The gathering, which included a seminar and book launch, was held to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the Tanjung Priok massacre which claimed the lives of hundreds of people.

Also in attendance were hundreds of victims of past rights abuses, including the Trisakti shooting, the May 1998 riots and the Talangsari killings.

Fatimah, a fresh graduate of senior high school, said she was glad to be able to continue her studies.

While sharing Fatimah's joy, other victims of rights abuses said they were angry with the government for ignoring them and treating them unfairly.

"During our trial we were intimidated until we withdrew our statements, and some generals tried to bribe us. How could this trial have been fair," said Mochtar Benny Fiki, who was jailed for years after the Tanjung Priok incident.

Another victim, Ratono, said the islah (reconciliation) offered by some military officers and government officials was nothing more than attempted bribery to divide victims and shut them up.

German author Fabian Junge, who wrote the newly launched book about the Tanjung Priok incident titled Kesempatan yang Hilang, Janji yang Tak Terpenuhi (Lost Chances, Unfulfilled Promises), said his research found that the Tanjung Priok human rights trial was not aimed at punishing perpetrators, but had been an attempt to show the international community that the government had done something.

"The prosecutors deliberately ignored substantial evidence while scare-tactics and bribery were rampant outside court," he said.

Under international pressure, the House of Representatives passed a law allowing the use of the 2003 human rights law to try alleged perpetrators of the Timor Leste and Tanjung Priok massacres.

The ad hoc human rights court in 2003 acquitted all 14 military officers accused of the killings and torture during the Tanjung Priok incident.

In 2004, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by prosecutors against the acquittal of Maj. Gen (ret) Pranowo, then Jakarta Military Police chief, and Maj. Gen Sriyanto, the former operations chief of North Jakarta military command, from charges of gross human rights abuse.

Official figures say 24 people were killed and 54 injured in the Tanjung Priok shooting. However, survivors and victims' family members say the death toll was above 100.

Legal expert Bambang Widjojanto said this case showed that the government were not serious in upholding human rights, as evident in the delays of prosecutions in the Talangsari case.

The National Commission on Human Rights declared that the incident was a gross violation of human rights.

"We can't reopen Tanjung Priok case unless we have new evidence. The state must at least take care of all the victims. Because of its ignorance, we need more people like Anies Baswedan to pay attention to the victims," Bambang said.

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