Mon, 16 Jun 2003

AGO commitment to T. Priok case questioned

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

During a hearing with Attorney General M.A. Rachman late last month, legislator Mutamiul Ula of the Reform faction came across what he considered irrefutable proof that the Attorney General's Office (AGO) was not serious about prosecuting those responsible for the 1984 Tanjung Priok bloodshed.

He found the AGO's report on the Tanjung Priok case was the same as one given to the House of Representatives in November last year.

"There are hardly any differences in your report. You just changed several words. Without reading this report, I already know the contents because this is the same report you presented to us last year," Mutamiul told Rachman during his hearing with House Commission II for legal and home affairs.

Outspoken legislator Dwi Ria Latifa of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) agreed, saying the identical reports reflected the AGO's lackluster handling of the case.

An apparently embarrassed Rachman replied: "It is because the investigation is still underway. That is why we only changed a few words in the report."

Rachman's reply spoke volumes about his office's response to the public pressure for a speedy and thorough investigation into the Tanjung Priok case.

Three years have passed since the government ordered that a human rights tribunal be established to hear the case.

A presidential decree issued in 2000 on past human rights violations stipulates that an ad hoc court will try only the alleged perpetrators and masterminds of the 1999 East Timor and Tanjung Priok human rights abuses.

The presidential decree followed the enactment of Law No. 26/2000 on human rights tribunals, which carries a maximum sentence of death for those convicted of gross human rights violations.

Under the international spotlight, the human rights court has sentenced five military and civilian officials charged with crimes against humanity in East Timor to between three and 10 years in prison. It has acquitted 15 others, sparking criticism of Indonesia's apparent failure to deliver justice.

Unlike the East Timorese human rights victims, the victims of the Tanjung Priok incident and their families, who have been seeking justice for decades, will have to continue their wait to see the perpetrators in the dock.

The Tanjung Priok bloodshed took place on Sept. 12, 1984, when soldiers opened fire on antigovernment protesters outside a mosque in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta.

Relatives of the victims say the incident claimed more than 400 lives, while the military claims only 18 people were killed.

An investigation by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) identified 33 fatalities and 55 people injured in the violence.

The attorney general claimed during the hearing at the House that his office could not accelerate the prosecution because of financial constraints.

B.R. Pangaribuan, the chief of the Attorney General Office's human rights task force, told the House commission his office lacked the funds to bring the case before the human rights tribunal.

"We have submitted a proposal for financing to the Directorate General of Budget at the finance ministry, but they said our proposal was incorrect because we asked for funds for both the Tanjung Priok and Abepura cases. They told us to submit two separate proposals," he said.

The Abepura case refers to alleged human rights abuses involving security officers against civilians in Papua.

"Therefore, we have to wait for the funds because we cannot afford to finance the process," Pangaribuan said.

However, Pangaribuan earlier promised his office would swear in ad hoc prosecutors to handle the Tanjung Priok case early in May.

Prosecutors have named 14 active and retired military officers, including the current commander of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus), Maj. Gen. Sriyanto Muntrasan, as suspects in the incident.

Sriyanto was the head of the operational section on the North Jakarta Military District at the time of the bloodshed.

L.B. Moerdani and Try Sutrisno, Indonesian Military chief and Jakarta Military chief respectively at the time of the bloodshed, were conspicuously absent from the list of suspects.

Tired of waiting for justice, some of the victims and families of victims of the shooting decided to attempt a reconciliation with Try. He offered some of them compensation, but others insisted that the case should be brought to court.