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Jakarta Post

Erasing dark history of human rights abuse

  • Frans H. Winarta

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, December 13, 2013   /  11:31 am

Human rights abuses are a dark chapter in the history of our republic, but if other states can deal with their own abuses to ensure they are not repeated, then Indonesia can too.

Gross violations of human rights, such as the shootings at Trisakti University, the May riots, Semanggi I in 1998, Semanggi II in 1999, the Talangsari massacre in 1989; the mysterious shootings (petrus) that targeted criminals in the 1980s, the persecution and killing linked to the 1965 aborted coup, the abductions of activists in 1997-1998 and so on, will remain a thorn in this nation'€™s side if they are left unresolved.

It is as if government since the reform era has applied a policy of impunity '€” which has the potential to be repeated '€” usually by security forces. This is unwelcome and as a civilized nation, we want to stand on an equal footing with other civilized nations and states.

Since reform started in 1998, the government has tried to establish a truth and reconciliation commission, but has failed repeatedly due to general elections, regional elections, corruption eradication, terrorism, horizontal conflicts, prohibitions of worship in churches, the murder of human rights activist Munir and so forth.

Now is the time to rekindle the idea of establishing a commission so the nation can deal with its dark history of human rights abuses. It is time for leaders to openly apologize to the victims and prosecute those behind the gross violations of human rights.

Leaving past human rights abuses unresolved not only disappoints victims'€™ families, but is also a blot on the dignity of the Indonesian state. A state based on Pancasila must guarantee human rights, as stated in Indonesia'€™s Constitution.

Members of the public, especially those who are pro-human rights and democracy, hope the elected president in 2014 can legally, socially and politically resolve gross violations of human rights.

Establishing a commission will help resolve these cases. An apology, compensation and rehabilitation for the victims of 1965, for instance, could enable them to become complete Indonesian citizens without a communist stigma being attached to them.

This idea requires the courage and nobility of a leader like Nelson Mandela.

On Dec. 10, we celebrated the 65th anniversary of Human Rights Day. A few days earlier, Mandela, a human rights figure from South Africa, passed away at 95.

Let'€™s hope his legacy will lead to a more peaceful world.
The writer is a lecturer at the School of Law at Universitas Pelita Harapan and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI).

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