A Pointless Reconciliation

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The move by the government along with the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to go for a reconciliation over the Trisakti and the first and second Semanggi tragedies, will be a big mistake. Reconciliation should happen after a judicial process. What kind of reconciliation is there to hope for if we do not even know who was behind the series of the bloody incidents in 1998?

    The reconciliation effort, which is being led by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto, also contains elements of conflict of interest. When the Trisakti and Semanggi incidents took place, Wiranto was defense and security minister and supreme commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI). It is strongly suspected that Wiranto knows the "secret' behind the disturbances. To date, the public remains shocked to be told that on May 14, 1998 two days after the shooting of students at Trisakti UniversityWiranto was in Malang while Jakarta was consumed by riots.

    The reconciliation through the National Reconciliation Council to be established by the government will be a waste of effort and government money. The families of the 33 people who died in the tragedies should think very carefully before welcoming such a proposal. If it goes ahead without the mastermind of the riots being uncovered, it will not heal any wounds.

    It is not only the government that has acted wrongly. Komnas HAM has taken a most regrettable stance. The organization charged with defending human rights seems to have thrown in the towel, and even delegitimized its own decision. Initially, Komnas HAM tried hard to investigate the incidents by establishing the Trisakti and Semanggi I & II Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission in March 2002. This Commission stated that the three incidents were linked, and that a systematic extraordinary crime had been committed. Komnas HAM then recommended an investigation of senior Indonesian Armed Forces and National Police officers suspected of involvement.

    The Attorney General's Office (AGO) should have paid attention to this recommendation. Many witnesses and perpetrators are still alive. But the AGO has given the impression of ignoring the findings of Komnas HAM. It always uses the principle of ne bis in idem-a case cannot be tried twice-as an excuse.

    The Trisakti and Semanggi cases have been processed by a military court, but the proceedings did nothing to uncover the masterminds behind the incidents, as should happen in cases of crimes against humanity. And the AGO's stance is at odds with international norms, as contained in the 1998 Statute of Rome, which ignores the principle of ne bis in idem when investigating gross human rights violations.

    President Jokowi promised a comprehensive investigation into the Trisakti and Semanggi tragedies. His promise should have been realized in the form of an instruction to the AGO to investigate the cases, then take them to a human rights court. This would be possible because it is in line with a 2008 Constitutional Court ruling following a judicial review of Law No. 26/2000 on Human Rights Courts. Now the House of Representatives (DPR) no longer has the power to propose the establishment of an ad hoc human rights court based on "suspected human rights abuses". 

    Human rights courts must be based on a legal investigation or be dependent on one of two organizations: Komnas HAM and the AGO.

    The reconciliation initiated by the government and Komnas HAM is clearly a step backwards. There is no legal basis for reconciliation because the law on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was annulled by the Constitutional Court. This move is simply a waste of time. The Trisakti and Semanggi tragedies will continue to hang heavy on the conscience of this republic as long as there is no comprehensive investigation into the perpetrators, and an open and objective court to try them. (*)

    Read the full story in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine