The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has come under criticism for its poor performance in promoting human rights protection.
Early this month, some survivors from the 1965 purge came to the commission’s headquarters in Central Jakarta accusing its members of siding with rights abusers by intentionally concealing the results of its investigation into the systematic prosecution of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members following the abortive coup.
“The public must understand that we have no authority in law enforcement,” Komnas HAM chairman Ifdhal Kasim said recently.
Established in 1993, Komnas HAM was assigned by then president Soeharto to review, monitor, and investigate human rights violations and to provide education on human rights to members of the government, including the police and military. Since 1999, its existence has been guaranteed by law.
Speaking before lawmakers on Thursday, Komnas HAM commissioner Kabul Supriyadhi emphasized the urgency to amend the 1999 law enabling the commission to give it law-enforcement powers. So far, it only issues recommendations.
“We do make recommendations based on our investigations on cases of violence involving human rights occurring all across the archipelago. Actions have been taken in some of the cases, but many of them have not [been acted on]. Komnas HAM is required to submit recommendations on cases of human rights violations to the executive and legislative institutions for further action. Sadly, things don’t happen as is expected.”
In a report on Indonesia’s human rights record submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Komnas HAM said that it had informed the Attorney General of the results of its investigations of several cases, including the May 1998 riots, the Semanggi and Clover II incidents in 1998, forced disappearances in 1997 and 1998, and massacres in Wasior and Wamena in Papua. However, no action was taken on any of the reports.
During the hearing on Thursday, Komnas HAM urged House Commission III overseeing law and human rights to seriously consider the commission’s proposal to amend its enabling law to give it a stronger role in promoting and protecting the rights of the people, especially as it would hold a plenary meeting in early June to raise recommendations to follow up its findings on ‘huge cases’ such as the 1965 purge and the Lapindo mudflow.
“What will happen to the results of our findings on such cases? Will they be ignored just like many others?” Kabul said.
In addition to a ‘weak’ legal foundation, Komnas HAM is also facing financial constraints, as its budget this year has been reduced from Rp 64 billion (US$6.78 million) to Rp 53 billion. Moreover, it has to give Rp 10 billion of that to the National Commission on Violence against Women, with which it also shares headquarters. “We are caught in a very difficult situation. We are funded by the state budget and mandated by the government on one hand, but we are required to be independent on the other hand in order to fully promote justice for the people,” Komnas HAM commissioner Nur Kholis said.
According to Komnas HAM data, the National Police was the institution most reported by the public in the last four years, with 1,839 reports.
The commission’s leader, Ifdhal, said a limited budget would also constrain the rights body to conduct proper investigations of human rights violations in the future.
Commenting on Komnas HAM’s proposal for increased funding, Commission III chairman I Gede Pasek Suardika said that the House would support the commission as long as it showed excellent performance.
Komnas HAM in time
June 7, 1993
President Soeharto signs a presidential decree on the establishment of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). Lt. Gen. (ret.) Ali Said is appointed chairman of the commission.
Sept. 8, 1999
The House of Representatives endorses the Human Rights Law, which recognizes, promotes and protects basic freedoms.
June 23, 2000
Some 300 members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) attack the commission’s headquarters in Central Jakarta. The assault is in protest of a report by the commission’s investigative team on the 1984 Tanjung Priok shootings in North Jakarta.
The Commission drafts a revision to the Human Rights Law, hoping to garner more authority.