Mon, 15 May 2000

Rights commission gripes about delay

JAKARTA (JP): The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) criticized on Saturday the sluggish performance of the Attorney General's Office in dealing with crimes against humanity.

The commission's secretary-general Asmara Nababan said the Attorney General's Office should have fared better because in many cases preliminary evidence was available.

"As one of the law enforcement bodies, the Attorney General's Office is too slow to meet the people's need for justice," Asmara said at the sidelines of a seminar held to commemorate the May 12, 1998, fatal shootings of student activists that contributed to the downfall of former president Soeharto.

Asmara acknowledged that the office lacked experience in handling human rights abuses, but insisted that this was not an excuse whatsoever.

"Supposing that judicial bodies are machines, it is necessary to repair their parts to enable them to work better, instead of just replacing the machines' operators," Asmara said.

He said cases in the pipeline included the state violence that followed the forcible takeover of the Indonesian Democratic Party's head office on July 27, 1996, the May 1998 riots and the abuse of residents living near pulp company PT Indorayon Inti Utama's plant in North Sumatra.

Several independent fact finding teams have been formed to gather evidence of crimes against humanity involving the state but without satisfactory results, let alone to bring the cases to court, he said.

Asmara insisted that solutions to the human rights crimes were important for the government to recover people's trust in the legal system. The lack of confidence in the legal system has driven people to take the law into their own hands, he said.

He also pointed out the necessity of restoring the rights of victims of abuse for the sake of democracy in the future, instead of just sentencing the perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

Another speaker at the seminar, executive of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) Luhut MP Pangaribuan shared his colleague's opinion on the important role of the House of Representatives) to speed up legal settlements to any human rights cases.

"Why doesn't the House react to certain cases as quickly as the way it responds to economic matters? The House has formed special committees to inquire into irregularities in our banking system, but not for human rights abuse cases," he said. (01)