Mon, 27 Aug 2001

Rights body needs revamping, activists say

JAKARTA (JP): Activists have urged the government to reform the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas-HAM), which they said was ineffective as it was dominated by a "conservative group".

They claimed that the rights body had failed to carry out the mission laid out by the government, which founded it in 1993.

Asmara Nababan, the Komnas secretary-general, proposed on Saturday that the House of Representatives screen new Komnas members and rescreen the 18 incumbent members to refresh the organization.

"A fit and proper test is needed to have professional Komnas members who are selected through a transparent process. Otherwise, Komnas will never have professional personnel," he said.

As stipulated by law, Komnas has 35 members. The membership has dropped to 18 and is in the process of recruiting another 17. The selection of new members has been heating up with internal politicking.

The rights body will propose new names to the House by Sept. 23. The House will have the final say in the selection. On the list are big names such as Todung Mulya Lubis, Hendardi, Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara and Wardah Hafidz.

Asmara declined to identify the "conservative" members but reliable sources at the rights body said they included Djoko Sugianto, chairman of the rights body, Koesparmono Irsan, Sugiri and Aisyah Amini.

The sources, who requested anonymity, said the conservative members, mostly ex-servicemen and former civil servants, were pro-military in their stance.

Asmara conceded that the conservative camp had made the current membership selection tough.

The independent selection team, set up by the commission, has proposed 14 new names but the commission, by a vote, decided to propose another 20.

Although the commission has agreed to cut the total number of members to 25 to make the body more effective, the conservative camp has changed its mind and wants to maintain 35.

"If the House agrees to allow the commission to have 35 members, all the money allocated to Komnas will all be spent on operation costs," Asmara said.

As a comparison, a similar body in Malaysia has only 11 members, while the Philippines has five and India 10.

Asmara said the recent resignations of Benyamin Mangkudilaga, who was appointed as justice, and Anton Suyata, who was appointed chairman of Ombudsman, have weakened the position of the progressive group who were committed to upholding human rights and conducting independent investigations into human rights abuses.

"Over the last year, tension between the two camps has crippled its investigations into human rights abuses in Maluku, Irian Jaya, Aceh, Sampit (Central Kalimantan) and Poso (Central Sulawesi)," he said.

Joko Sugianto and Koesparmono Irsan were not available for comment.

Munir, who declined to be named a member of the human rights commission, said he had long observed the commission's ineffectiveness because of the presence of the conservative members.

"It's better for the House to conduct a fit and proper test on the commission's current 18 members because 75 percent of them are not professional and have no strong commitment in investigating human rights abuses," he said.

Munir, who is also the chairman of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said in addition to handling past human rights abuses, the commission should be proactive in investigating human rights violations in Aceh, Ambon, Irian Jaya, Sampit and Poso. (rms)