report – By Ryan Dagur in Jakarta
An Indonesian presidential adviser has vowed to press the government into setting up an ad hoc human rights court to try those responsible for the forced disappearance of 13 political activists in 1997 and 1998, a move that could pose problems for presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto.
The call from Albert Hasibuan came after a meeting earlier this week with members of the Movement Against Forgetting (GML), which includes the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Indonesia Corruption Watch and the Setara Institute.
“The point is that we asked the presidential advisory board member to urge the president to set up an ad hoc human rights court and to find the missing activists,” said Poengky Indarti, executive director of Imparsial.
The role of Prabowo in the case has long been contested. Rights activists believe that as head of the Kopassus special forces unit at the time, he may have ordered the abductions.
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has previously said that among the hundreds of activists abducted in 1997 and 1998, the final years of former dictator Suharto, and who were later released, some had seen those now missing at the Kopassus headquarters in Cijantung, East Jakarta.
Fuelling the calls for an investigation into their fate is a comment by former Army Strategic Reserve Command chief of staff Kivlan Zen, who recently claimed to know where the 13 were executed, and where their bodies now lay.
Kontras has said that it tried to summon Kivlan to hand over evidence of their whereabouts, but that he had refused, claiming he had already given testimony in 2006. The group said, however, that he would be more likely to respond to a court summons.
“His explanation is very important and serves as an initial clue to find out the situation of the activists,” said the Movement Against Forgetting in a statement.
Prabowo, who heads the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) is running for the presidency in elections due in July. Supporters and colleagues have argued that the dredging up of his human rights record was intended to hinder his chances of become the next Indonesian president.
The call to set up an investigation is not new. Presidential advisor Albert said in March last year that an court would soon materialise, but that failed to happen.
Amnesty International has said in the past that the ad hoc human rights court “must form part of a wider investigation into enforced disappearances in Indonesia and during the occupation of Timor-Leste from 1975-1999”, in which Prabowo also has a contentious role.