The Jakarta Post
Following the controversial parole of a pilot convicted of murdering a leading human rights activist, Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna H. Laoly said on Tuesday that the government was mulling an ad hoc human rights court and would also resume deliberation on the bill on a truth and reconciliation commission.
Few are cheering though. It seems people are resigned to the nation's merry-go-round of elusive justice, afraid to hope too much after so many shameless displays of impunity.
The background to these fears is the lingering questions about the mastermind of Munir Said Thalib's murder in September 2004. The ministry deems the conditional release of Pollycarpus Budihari Prijanto legal, given his accumulated remission of 42 months from his sentence of 14 years in 2008 for lacing Munir's drink with arsenic.
Despite the court hearings revealing Pollycarpus' links to the National Intelligence Agency (BIN), a separate trial finally acquitted BIN deputy Muchdi Purwoprandjono. His boss AM Hendropriyono denied any knowledge of any plan to murder Munir.
So despite the protests of Munir's widow Suciwati that Pollycarpus was no murderer acting on his own as the court concluded, there has been no proof of a conspiracy, which might otherwise have categorized him as ineligible for remission.
Another dampener on hopes following Yasonna's announcement are our rare experiences with ad hoc human rights courts, which have seen most defendants acquitted ' such as in the East Timor case. East Timor, which became the independent Timor Leste, successfully established its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
But its former ruler, Indonesia, together with Timor Leste, set up the Truth and Friendship Commission, which did not manage to overcome allegations of a whitewash.
The unresolved murder of Munir and the similar impunity of so many murderers and rapists of civilians in Timor Leste send an equally hopeless signal regarding the bill on a truth and reconciliation commission.
Its advocates lost steam after the Constitutional Court scrapped the bill due to legal technicalities, amid protests from many quarters warning against the 'return of communists'; those championing the bill were looking to bring some justice to survivors and relatives of unlawful detention, torture, murder and other crimes around the mid 1960s, following the political upheaval and bloodshed.
Nevertheless, the momentum under a new government must be harnessed, to give the legal system another chance to give closure to those who were dissidents of past regimes, or who were merely 'collateral damage' ' such as families of those suspected of treason.
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo knows well that his supporters are fast becoming his loudest critics, particularly questioning his campaign pledges to resolve human rights cases.
Seeing visible government commitment in renewing attempts to give such closure would begin to settle doubts as to whether the President is willing to tread on any political allies implicated in such crimes.
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