Tue, 08 Feb 2000

On human rights law

In referring to Compromises vital to settle debate on human rights bill (The Jakarta Post, Feb. 5, 2000), I also refer to previous remarks by the minister of law and legislation in November 1999, about which I commented in my letter of Nov. 24, 1999.

What I said then still applies, and I disagree with the absolute need for any bill containing a "retroactive" clause. Human rights violations are not some sort of otherworldly event, they are sometimes very commonplace. For example, if I were to step inside your front gate without permission, I have technically violated your right to enjoy your property without interference from anyone, and if I were not to leave when asked then you could have me charged with trespassing.

Normally there is a time limit past which you cannot bring such a charge, but for the violations we are talking about in relation to East Timor, Aceh and Maluku, there are no time limits. Murder, unlawful killing, manslaughter, rape, assault and arson are all criminal acts for which there are already laws in Indonesia. Within these laws are sections dealing with persons who conspire, assist, condone and are accessories to the acts themselves. I may need correction, because I do not know the criminal code of Indonesia, but most countries have such laws and such sections within those laws.

This being the case, there is no real necessity to introduce new laws hurriedly, which might easily be avoided by clever lawyers because they are badly drafted. Far better to use the old laws, some of which I presume were inherited from the Dutch, which have stood the test of time. From these it is simple to charge A with murder in that he, on a certain date, did willfully and with malice kill B. Then C can be charged with standing and watching this being done without trying to stop A. Before charging A and C, they will have been questioned and from what they say, and other evidence collected, D can be charged with being an accessory to the crime in that he ordered A and C to commit the murder.

Within the Army it is implicit that each and every man has a superior officer until you reach the most senior general, and he derives his authority from whoever or whatever is designated as being in command in the constitution, either the king, the president or the highest legislative body. In the example above, he would be E, the man to whom D would ultimately report.

I do agree that if there are now some internationally recognized crimes, laws for which have not yet been drafted in Indonesia, then we need to incorporate these laws if we intend to charge anyone with crimes under them. Incidentally, Article 1 of the criminal code must be amended immediately. I would assume that it was introduced into the code at a time when there were many horrendous crimes being committed in the course of gaining independence from the Dutch, but that was war and I hope that no one is suggesting that the fighting in East Timor, Aceh and Maluku was or has been at any time war, even though the Army has conducted itself as if it was at war. Dissidence, even active, is not war and the normal criminal and civil codes of law still apply.

As this question of retroactive law keeps coming up, it has to be assumed that the old regime is mobilizing as much of the money that they have in an attempt to avoid paying for their crimes with their lives. Whatever charges are formulated and under whatever laws, please, all you elected representatives, ensure that no clever lawyers are able to obtain their clients' freedom on technicalities.


Cianjur, West Java