Sat, 12 Feb 2000

Draft of new bill on rights tribunal to be finished soon

JAKARTA (JP): The final draft of a new bill on a human rights tribunal which specifically encloses a retroactive clause to try past rights abuses will be completed on Feb. 21.

The new bill is in anticipation of the likely rejection by the House of Representatives of an earlier submitted regulation drafted under former President B.J. Habibie.

The new bill will incorporate several elements that the earlier regulation did not, and, if passed, could be used to try senior officers and officials alleged to have been involved in the violence that swept East Timor before and after the Aug. 30 ballot.

Romli Atmasasmita, the director general of law at the Ministry of Law and Legislation, said the current draft of the bill, currently in its eighth revision, will undergo public scrutiny in a final roundtable discussion with legal experts and other government, military and police officials on Feb. 16.

Last amendments will then be made before the final draft is signed by Minister of Law and Legislation Yusril Ihza Mahendra.

From there, it will be sent to the Secretary of State's office before being officially presented to the House of Representatives before the end of the month.

Legislators and senior government officials have indicated that the previously submitted government regulation on a human rights tribunal would be rejected. The regulation was drafted by then justice minister Muladi.

Many view the changes to the new bill as being spurred by efforts to uphold justice following the violence in East Timor.

A government-sanctioned inquiry on rights abuses in East Timor has stated that former Military chief Gen. Wiranto and other senior officers and officials should be held accountable for the violence and recommended the Attorney General's office conduct an investigation into the matter.

However, Indonesia at present does not have the necessary legal instruments by which to satisfactorily try them.

Both the submitted government regulation and Indonesia's criminal code does not recognize collective responsibility for a crime. Neither do they apply retroactively. Meaning that even if the current regulation was applied the suspects could not be tried under it as the alleged crime occurred prior to the regulation's application.

Romli pointed on Friday to the retroactive clause and articles on guilt by omission as distinct elements of the new bill not to be found in its predecessor.

He said that with the article classifying guilt by omission no officer or official could hide behind their status if they were in anyway responsible for a crime.

"In this draft impunity is discarded," he said during a briefing to update the media on the progress of the bill.

Romli said that the retroactive clause as it currently stands has no time limit.

A key element to any fair trial are the judges. Romli said that the bill was currently proposing a five member panel which would be comprised of two career judges and three ad hoc ones who could be appointed from outside the formal legal profession. (01)