Sat, 15 Jan 2000

Joko to head human rights commission

JAKARTA (JP): Joko Sugianto was elected on Friday as chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights, replacing Marzuki Darusman who was recently appointed the attorney general.

Joko, at 74 the oldest member of the commission and a former deputy chairman of the Supreme Court, was elected during a two- and-a-half meeting by a vote of 11 to nine over Saparinah Sadli.

Saparinah, 73, a senior lecturer at the University of Indonesia and wife of former minister Mohamad Sadli, was appointed first deputy of the commission, while Bambang Wiratmadji Suharto, 57, a former youth activist, was named second deputy.

Asmara Nababan, 54, was elected secretary-general to replace Clementino dos Reis Amaral, who reportedly left for Portugal last year.

The commission was established in 1993 by then president Soeharto. Despite initial skepticism of the commission's independence, observers have praised the rights body for its critical assessment of cases ranging from land disputes to human rights violations.

Joko conceded that the debate during the meeting became heated over the issue of how the chairman would be elected.

"But then we all agreed to build a collective leadership where all members take an active role and share the same responsibility," he said, adding that the commission would also soon recruit new members.

Joko hoped the rights body could now work more effectively.

He acknowledged that the commission would face even tougher tasks, with a backlog of complicated cases.

"The difference is that now human rights cases are linked to political issues. So, we have to work more thoroughly".

He said that much of the criticism directed at the commission's work was unwarranted.

"We're not sleeping and we don't get paid for doing nothing. We have our own way of fulfilling duties." He said the commission would launch a public information campaign about its duties. (01)