Fri, 11 Jun 2004

Court orders rights body to act against evictions

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta

The Central Jakarta District Court ordered the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) on Thursday to step up its efforts in providing a fair and just solution for victims of forced evictions and in protecting residents from future evictions.

In addition, the court rejected a request filed by the Jakarta Residents Forum (Fakta) that the rights commission be declared guilty of neglect in protecting citizens from human right abuses as stipulated in Law No. 39/1999 on human rights.

Fakta filed a civil lawsuit against Komnas HAM, accusing it of doing nothing to investigate alleged human rights abuses committed last year by the Jakarta administration through a series of forced evictions.

Fakta presented as evidence its reports on 19 separate evictions carried out in 2003 in the capital that left more than 40,000 people homeless.

The report included evictions in Tambora and East Cengkareng, West Jakarta, during which public order officers allegedly beat residents, burned and looted their belongings and sexually abused a 13-year-old girl. One of the shantytown residents died from the alleged beating.

Presiding judge Suripto read out the verdict, declaring that Fakta's collection of evidence and evictees' testimonies showed that forced evictions had indeed occurred, and that many of the evictions showed indications of human rights abuse.

"The evidence and testimonies, however, have also revealed that Komnas HAM showed its concern in regards the evictions," Suripto said, referring to the commission's willingness to receive complaints from the evictees.

Komnas HAM lawyer Firman Wijaya told reporters after the hearing that the commission would accept the ruling, and stressed it was not a matter of winning or losing.

"The suit was an educational example to the public on how to exercise their legal rights," he said.

Meanwhile, Fakta chairman Azas Tigor Nainggolan said the forum would also accept the verdict and was satisfied with it. "The main point is that Komnas HAM is now legally bound to be more active against evictions. If it still doesn't do anything about it, then we will file another lawsuit."

Ibu Mama, an evictee from East Cengkareng who also attended the hearing, expressed her hope that the verdict would finally resolve her family's homeless status, as they had been staying at the Komnas HAM compound since last September.