Saturday, May 19, 2007

AGO urged to take lead in May riots probe

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Human rights activists told the Attorney General's Office on Monday to be more progressive in probing the May 1998 riots without waiting for a House of Representatives recommendation to set up an ad hoc human rights tribunal.

The activists said the Attorney General's Office (AGO) seemed more valiant when dealing with corruption cases, but was cowardly in handling human rights violations involving the military and the police.

Indria Fernida from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said the AGO should launch an investigation into the case considering its two central functions are investigation and prosecution.

"The House's recommendation of an ad hoc court is in the stage of prosecution and it would only happen if the AGO had held an investigation into the case," Indria said.

"How can we leave a decision as to whether a case is a human rights violation to a political body like the House? Don't mix law with politics."

Indriya said that instead of discussing technicalities such as the material and formal requirements of the case, the AGO should work together with the National Commission on Human Rights to solve such matters.

"We thought that Hendarman Supandji, as the new attorney general, would bring some new hope, but hearing these old arguments again and again makes us think it will still be difficult for the families of the victims to receive justice," Indriya said.

The meeting was scheduled to be attended by Hendarman, but the AGO was represented only by its spokesman Salman Maryadi and human rights director Moch. Djaenuddin.

The meeting was immediately heated by Salman's opening statement that the AGO was unable to launch an investigation into the 1998 riots because it occurred prior to the enactment of the 2000 Human Rights Court Law.

"According to Article 23 of the law, cases that took place before 2002 are under the jurisdiction of an ad hoc court, which should be recommended by the House," Salman told the meeting.

He said that because no specific procedures existed pertaining to human rights trials, the Criminal Code Procedures were applicable.

The procedures demand, however, that unless a case meets specific material and formal requirements, it could be rejected or the perpetrator could be exonerated.

"We don't want this to happen. This is not because we are reluctant, but because we don't want to fail," Salman told the meeting.

Indriya said, however, that the AGO was showing its reluctance to work with the human rights commission in cases involving abducted activists by, for example, refusing to investigate crime scenes listed by the commission.

Edwin Partogi, also from Kontras, said the AGO had acted cowardly in its probing of human rights violations, hinting that military hegemony still exists in the office.

"The AGO seems to be very brave when handling corruption cases, but it seems to never consider tortures, killings, rape, burnings and looting as crimes ... with every reason they are trying to reject investigations, even by manipulating the law," Edwin said.

"There is no single article in the 2002 law preventing you from launching an investigation. There is no law broken if you launch an investigation. Just enforce the law and don't mix it with political considerations," he added. (02)

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