Gisela Swaragita, Jakarta – Indonesian human rights groups have criticized President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration for rejecting a declaration by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) that a fatal incident in Paniai regency in Papua in 2014 constituted a "gross human rights violation".
Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko, Indonesian Military (TNI) commander at the time of the shooting, had expressed his disagreement with Komnas HAM's finding on Monday.
Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) coordinator Yati Andriyani said Moeldoko did not have any authority to declare whether something was a gross violation of human rights or not.
Law No. 26/2000 on human rights courts stipulates that the institutions vested with the authority to determine whether an incident was a gross human rights violation or not were Komnas HAM, the Attorney General's Office (AGO) and special human rights courts, Yati said.
Therefore, taking a position as if the Presidential Palace had the authority to dismiss Komnas HAM findings was "lame and misleading", Yati said.
"That attitude only shows [that the government is] anti-human rights, anticriticism," she went on, adding that the President and the government should not be undermining Komnas HAM's work.
Komnas HAM is an independent body, and its authority is protected by the 1999 Komnas HAM Law.
Yati urged the government to support Komnas HAM's investigation and make sure that the attorney general followed up the findings.
"[The government should] open room for dialogue to solve Papua [cases] as a whole, making steps of accountability, such as trials and transparency on the truth about human rights violations in Papua," she said.
Similarly, Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid said the Presidential Palace should not rush to dismiss the findings of Komnas HAM's investigation. "The government should be deploying the palace's Papua team to examine Komnas HAM's findings," he told the Post.
He also noted that President Jokowi had made a commitment to investigate the case back in 2014.
"On Dec. 27, 2014, President Jokowi, who had been in office less than two months, stated that he wanted the Paniai case to be promptly resolved to prevent any recurrence," he said.
On Monday, Komnas HAM issued the results of its investigation of the five-year old case, in which high school students were gunned down during a protest in Paniai, a central area in restive Papua province.
According to the findings, rank-and-file soldiers and their superiors should shoulder the blame for the deaths of the students, aged 17 and 18, as well as for "torturing" another 21 protesting Papuans, AFP reported.
The commission concluded that the case was a gross human rights violation.
"This incident constitutes crimes against humanity," the commission's chief investigator, Muhammad Choirul Anam, told AFP in a statement on Monday.
Komnas HAM said it had forwarded its dossier on the unrest to the AGO for possible prosecution.
The probe had been hampered by long delays due to attempts by unnamed individuals to hide evidence, the human rights commission said.
The protests were sparked by the alleged beating of other Papuan youths at the hands of army personnel. Security forces eventually opened fire on a crowd after demonstrators threw stones at a military office.
The commission interviewed two dozen witnesses, analyzed documents and visited the scene to determine whether the military was involved in the deaths. So far, no-one has been charged.