Thu, 19 Jun 2003

Military and police resists probe into May riots

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Investigation into human rights violations during May 1998 riots has met with strong resistance from military and police officers allegedly involved in the incident.

Only police officer Sr. Comr. Arthur Damanik has so far complied with the summons issued by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) ad hoc team for the riots. The team has worked for months to prove possible rights violations during the rampage.

Arthur is a former official with the Jakarta Police headquarters and is currently the deputy chief of East Nusa Tenggara Police. He visited the commission on Tuesday.

Secretary of the team, Esther Indahyani Jusuf, said summonses had been issued to 24 officers.

"The officers were summoned to clarify why there were only a few security officers, either police or military, in most parts of the city where the riots occurred and why the officers failed to prevent the riots," said Esther.

The team will send the second and third summons for the 16 officers, including former TNI Chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto, TNI spokesman Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, former commander of the Army's Strategic Command Reserve (Kostrad) Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto , former Army chief Gen. (ret) Subagyo HS and Lt. Gen. Sudi Silalahi, assistant to the coordinating minister for political and security affairs.

"We expect them to show their goodwill to help solve this case. If they refuse to answer the summons, we will take further steps such as asking a district court to force them to respond," she said.

The military's lawyers have already declared that none of the officers would appear "without proper legal basis".

The team has questioned as many as 57 eye witnesses and victims of the riots as well as members of the then joint fact- finding team (TGPF), which was formed to probe the incident during the administration of former president B.J. Habibie.

Indah said that TGPF had agreed that their findings could be used as evidence in court.

The victims have been waiting for justice as no one has been declared a suspect nor been held responsible for the tragedy, which occurred on May 13 and May 14, 1998.

Hundreds of people died and hundreds of shops, shopping centers and homes were looted and set ablaze during the rampage, which preceded the fall of former president Soeharto.

No security officers were around to prevent the crimes, except for those hired by business owners to guard their assets before the rampage broke out.