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Indonesia

Top Indonesian lawman demands action on rights cases

Attorney general calls for progress on stalled attempts by prosecutors to settle gross rights abuse cases

Top Indonesian lawman demands action on rights cases

Indonesian attorney general Sanitiar Burhanuddin (Photo: YouTube)

Indonesia’s attorney general has called on prosecutors to speed up efforts to deal with unresolved human rights violation cases after becoming frustrated over a lack of progress since forming a special team to handle them last year.

Sanitiar Burhanuddin gave the instruction to the junior attorney general for special crimes on Nov. 21 following renewed pressure from victims and rights groups.

“Attorney general Burhanuddin wants to see a breakthrough in resolving these matters which have been slowed because of differences between his investigation team and the investigator from the National Commission of Human Rights [Komnas HAM],” Attorney General’s Office spokesman Leonard Eben Ezer Simanjuntak said without elaborating.

He said the attorney general hopes that this year his assistant for special crimes can make significant progress.

According to the national rights commission, 13 gross human rights abuse cases need addressing.

They include the 1965-66 anti-communist massacres in which between 500,000 to 3 million people were killed according to different estimates after the Communist Party was blamed for a failed coup attempt. The party remains outlawed to this day.

Burhanuddin should show the prosecutor’s office is a law enforcement institution by bringing justice for the victims and their families

Recently declassified documents in Britain that revealed the extent of the United Kingdom’s role in inciting one of the worst mass killings of the 20th century sparked renewed calls by rights groups in October for these abuses to be resolved.

Other cases include clashes with students in 1998-99 in Jakarta that killed dozens of young people and riots in May 1998 which saw more than 1,000 people killed, many of whom were ethnic Chinese.

Burhanuddin’s call was welcomed by rights groups and victims.

Maria Catarina Sumarsih, a Catholic whose son was killed during a 1998 student uprising, said it was good the attorney general was acknowledging the slow pace in dealing with these issues.

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“Burhanuddin should show the prosecutor’s office is a law enforcement institution by bringing justice for the victims and their families,” she told UCA News.  

“So far, he has only provided words and needs to commit to his task of being a law enforcement officer. He must be brave and not be afraid of what he might find.” 

Bedjo Untung, chairman of the 1965 Murder Victims Research Foundation, said closer cooperation with the rights commission would be key to achieving what needs to be done.

“If the attorney general is serious about wanting to resolve these cases he must follow the recommendation from the commission because it has much of the evidence he needs,” said Untung, who had several family members killed in the 1965-66 anti-communist massacres.

“I hope the attorney general can resolve these cases before the witnesses and victims die.” 

Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, also called on Burhanuddin to back his words up with action.

“Justice demands this is followed up by the attorney general,” Hamid said, adding the president also needs to be seen to be doing something.

The problem is that although victims and activists have urged President Joko Widodo to punish the perpetrators, he tends not to care, he said.

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