Human Rights Commission: There Is a Threat of Political Violence

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) has just completed collecting facts and statements surrounding the riots during the May 21-23 protests which broke out on the heels of the presidential election result announcement. 

    One of their findings includes mysterious shootings that killed 10 people – nine in Jakarta and one in Pontianak. As reported by Tempo in the June 4-9 and July 2-7 editions, the shootings were pre-planned and carried out by professionals.

    Komnas HAM Chair Ahmad Taufan Damanik said that although the commission did not find any direct link to the shooter, incendiary comments by some politicians who rejected the results had fanned the flames. “There were politicians who perhaps did not realize that their statements could be triggers,” Taufan said in a special interview with Tempo last Friday.

    The commission set the fact-finding team in motion on May 23. From the start, Taufan said, the team saw oddness such as the police’s permission to let the rally proceed beyond the 6 pm deadline. Through a series of interviews and closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, the team observed a change in the mass just before midnight on May 21. People on the streets were no longer channeling their aspirations but rather instigating violence.

    The fact-finding team also paid visits to the police officers who fell victim to violence and elicited their accounts of the unrest during these visits. They also asked for statements from Gen. Tito Karnavian, the national police chief who is now the home affairs minister, and Comsr. Gen. Moechgiyarto, the inspector of the national police’s general supervision division. The commission has requested to meet President Joko Widodo and the newly elected police chief, Gen. Idham Azis to hand over the findings. “We are really trying to see the police chief because we need to find the perpetrators,” Taufan said.

    Taking a break from writing the final report, Taufan, 54, sat down with Tempo’s Reza Maulana, Mahardika S. Hadi and Aisha Shaidra in his central Jakarta office. Commissioner Amiruddin Al Rahab was also present and answered some of the questions. Excerpts:

    What is the basis for the report’s assertion that the shootings were pre-planned?

    On average, the victims were shot from close range. From the CCTV footage, Harun Rasyid was short from a distance of 10-11 meters. He could be a key to unravel the incident because of the stronger evidence his remains offered compared with the other victims’. A post mortem was also performed on him.

    Did the CCTV footage show the identity of the shooter?

    The police can actually identify faces using facial recognition technology. But the cameras somehow did not catch the face of the shooter of Harun Rasyid (a 15 years-old resident Duri Kelapa, West Jakarta, whose body was found on the Slipi flyover, West Jakarta, with a gunshot wound on the chest). Either by chance or by high professional skills, he was able to avoid the cameras even though he wasn’t wearing any mask, hat or other face covers. Meanwhile, hundreds of vandals including those who damaged police cars and snatched weapons were identified and caught thanks to identification via CCTVs. We also urge the police to make serious efforts to find Harun’s shooter. He might be able to reveal other shooters.

    Who are these professional actors?

    Anyone can be in professional groups, right? Their names were mentioned in Tempo’s reports. I’ve met twice with Tito Karnavian and the Jakarta metro police chief (Idham Azis at the time). The police have that data. That’s why we asked them to probe further.

    Why didn’t Komnas HAM itself disclose those names?

    It is not Komnas HAM’s jurisdiction. We are not allowed to do that. That is the police’s jurisdiction.

    Why are not other shootings investigated?

    Most of other victims were taken to hospitals without the information as to where they died. In the state of panic, hospital staff failed to record the details as victims arrived almost at the same time. The location of death and the identities of the persons who delivered the bodies are still shrouded in mystery. We suspect that there was a grand plan in which a group of people shot the victims, sent the bodies to hospitals and then informed the families who later picked them up for prompt burial.

    Is it not a requirement to perform post-mortem procedure on all victims of crime?

    We were also surprised to learn that the hospitals released the bodies without examination. They argued that they were in panic. Indeed, the hospitals were extremely crowded at that time. A security task force received the bodies without recording the victims’ details. Then the families suddenly received phone calls from strangers, not from hospitals. Therefore, one of our recommendations in the report is a formal procedure on handling victims who die under suspicious circumstances.

    What is the suspected motive behind the shootings?

    To create political instability. Our democracy is already under threat by political violence. We want to send this warning to the public, particularly political parties, so that they don’t behave recklessly.

    Are the perpetrators politicians?

    There are various elements. There are also politicians who don’t realize that their statements could be triggers.

    Is there proof of ‘a chain of command’ from politicians?

    No. We also asked several youths who used violence during the protest. They said they did not receive any command from anybody. A more logical explanation is that incendiary statements from several sides fanned the flames. Therefore, we urged the police to investigate people like Eggi Sudjana, an activist and the lawyer for the 212 Alumni Brotherhood. Also the discovery of a political party-owned ambulance to transport rocks for use in the riots.

    Read the full interview in Tempo English Magazine