The decision by the Attorney General’s Office ( AGO ) to dismiss the National Commission on Human Rights’ ( Komnas HAM ) finding that the 1965 communist purge was a gross violation of human rights is a setback for the human rights campaign in the country.
Komnas HAM said that the AGO’s decision was premature and that it could further degrade the institution’s image as obstructionist in any efforts to uncover the truth about past human rights abuses.
“The AGO can officially declare whether or not it will continue to investigate the PKI [Indonesian Communist Party] purge only after it has studied our new report,” outgoing Komnas HAM chairman Ifdhal Kasim told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
On Saturday, Attorney General Basrief Arief repeated his statement that the Attorney General’s Office ( AGO ) rejected Komnas HAM’s findings of gross human rights violations in the 1965 communist purge and had returned the rights body’s extensive report.
Ifdhal said that Komnas HAM was in fact given 30 days to collect new evidence before it could resubmit the report.
“The AGO returned the report to us. It also provided us with a list of instructions that we should follow within 30 days if we want to submit the report again,” Ifdhal said.
In late July, the rights commission released its comprehensive report on the 1965 violence, the fruits of a four-year research project. The report stated that persecution of alleged members of the former Indonesian Communist Party ( PKI ) was a gross violation of human rights.
Some estimated that more than 500,000 people were killed in the purge, while thousands were sent to prisons in some of the country’s remote islands without proper trials.
Komnas HAM also handed over a copy of its 850-page report to the AGO to form the basis for a possible criminal investigation.
This is not the first time the AGO rejected a report on human rights abuses in the country.
The AGO, for instance, has failed to investigate allegations of human rights violations in the violence that took place during the transition from the New Order regime.
Human rights activists have expressed disappointment with Basrief’s remarks.
Usman Hamid, formerly of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence ( Kontras ) said that the AGO could only rule out a gross violation of human rights in the 1965 anti-communist pogrom only after it conducted its own investigation.
“The existing law stipulates that the attorney general should launch an investigation into an allegation of a human rights violation after getting recommendations from Komnas HAM,” Usman said, referring to Law No. 26/2000 on the human rights court.
Usman said that the AGO’s stance reflected the government’s overall position on human rights in the country.
Rights activist Zainal Abidin of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy ( Elsam ) said that the AGO could have done a great deal to prosecute the case, based on recommendations from Komnas HAM.
Zainal said that if the AGO found that Komnas HAM was lacking crucial evidence, it should have launched a probe of its own.
“The AGO is authorized to use force to summon witnesses, while Komnas HAM does not have such a privilege,” he said.
He said that it was highly unlikely that the AGO would prosecute the case.
“It is the same old song. It’s always that the Komnas HAM’s report lacks evidence. It is just a polite way of rejecting the report,” he said. ( riz )