It is now official that Indonesia will not ratify the Rome Statute for the accession to the International Criminal Court ( ICC ) in the near future.
Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro issued a statement that effectively blocks the ratification of the statute, dashing the hope of rights activists, at home and abroad, who had called for its quick ratification.
'There are many countries, including major democratic countries [such as the US] that have yet to ratify the Rome Statute, although there are equally a large number of countries that have adopted it. Each of them has their own interest in the decision. Therefore, we need more time to carefully and thoroughly review the pros and cons of the ratification,' said Purnomo on the sidelines of a hearing with the House Commission I overseeing information, defense and foreign affairs on Monday.
Purnomo said that he personally believed that the ratification was not urgent because Indonesia already had national legal instruments, such as the 1945 Constitution, the 1999 law on human rights and the 2000 law on rights tribunals, which according to him, were enough to serve as a foundation for human rights protection in the country.
'However, the decision [to ratify] should not be made by the Defense Ministry alone. It also involves the Law and Human Rights Ministry as well as the Foreign Ministry,' he said.
Earlier, government officials and politicians said that although adopting the Rome Statute would further uphold human rights protection, they believed that it was not urgent to accede to the statute.
After arguing that the ratification of the statute could be used to block the presidential bids of Great Indonesia Movement Party ( Gerindra ) chief patron Lt. Gen. ( ret ) Prabowo Subianto and People's Conscience ( Hanura ) Party chairman Gen. ( ret ) Wiranto, who have been deemed responsible for the 1998 May riots by the National Commission on Human Rights ( Komnas HAM ), politicians alleged that there had been pressure on Indonesia to ratify the convention.
The chairman of House Commission I, Mahfudz Siddiq of the Prosperous Justice Party ( PKS ), encouraged fellow lawmakers and the government to extend the discussion for a comprehensive review of the treaty, including the possibility that the Rome Statute could be abused to interfere in the country's domestic politics.
'It is possible that this instrument [Rome Statute] could be misused to encourage the ICC to step in for certain political interests. Therefore, we don't need to rush to ratify it now,' Mahfudz said.
Indonesia declared its support for the adoption of the Rome Statute 14 years ago.
The Cabinet of then president Megawati Soekarnoputri adopted a National Plan of Action on Human Rights in 2004, which stated that Indonesia would ratify the Rome Statute in 2008. Former foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda confirmed this intention later in 2007.
Supporters of the ratification cited the lack of political will as the core problem in the years of discussion.
Komnas HAM has previously emphasized that the ratification of the Rome Statute would help prevent future mass human rights abuse.
The commission, however, assured that for past human rights abuses existing national legal instruments were the only mechanism.
Lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle ( PDI-P ) blasted fellow lawmakers for the backpedaling.
'Why should we look at the US, or any other countries, to make a decision that will benefit our own people? This is politicization of the issue. It's better for us to ratify first to show an example. We can ask questions later,' Eva said.