Prabowo could redeem himself
through rights tribunal,
says ex-commander

Former Army Education and Training commander Lt. Gen. (ret) Luhut Binsar Panjaitan suggests the establishment of a rights tribunal to clarify the gravity of the involvement of Gerindra Party chief patron and presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto behind the kidnapping of rights activists during the 1998 riots.

Luhut, who is now deputy chairman of Golkar Party’s advisory council, said that Prabowo would be forever associated with the kidnappings and would likely be labeled as a human rights violator, unless he could prove otherwise through the court. He added the label could affect his political career and ambition.

He said Prabowo could start by telling the court what happened during those chaotic times.

“It is true that there is a human rights violation case that will never expire until a tribunal is established. I don’t know the gravity of Prabowo’s involvement in this case but it will remain his responsibility to clarify the case,” Luhut, who spent years with Prabowo leading the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) unit 81 as commander and deputy commander, respectively, in the early 1980s, said on Tuesday.

The statement was made in response to journalists’ questions over the human rights violations allegedly committed by Prabowo when he served as the Army’s Strategic Reserve commander (Pangkostrad).

Prabowo was dismissed from the army following a recommendation from the Officer Honorary Council (DKP) in 1998. The DKP found Prabowo guilty of masterminding and kidnapping nine rights activists. Besides Prabowo, a group of Kopassus officials and field operatives were also dismissed.

However, critics continue to question whether Prabowo was the only actor behind the kidnappings.

In 2003, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) released the results of its investigation of the 1998 riots and considered a group of army generals responsible. Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto and Gen (ret) Wiranto, then commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI), were among those names deemed responsible.(dic)

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