Ihsanuddin, Jakarta – Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid says that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has broken the commitment he made during his presidential election campaign to uphold human rights.
This is because Widodo has approved two former members of the Rose Team (Tim Mawar) as officials at the Defense Department which is headed by Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto.
"President Jokowi has again broken his promise, particularly in investigating the abduction and forced disappearance of activists along with past human rights violations in this country", said Hamid in a press release on Friday September 25.
The Rose Team was part of the army's Special Forces (Kopassus) Group IV/Sandi Yudha which at the time was commanded by Prabowo.
The team was the mastermind behind an operation to abduct pro-democracy activists in the lead up to former president Suharto's overthrow in 1998.
Earlier, Prabowo proposed the two former Rose Team members as Defense Department officials, which Widodo then approved through Presidential Decree Number 166/TPA 2020.
Brigadier General Yulius Selvanus was appointed as the head of the Defense Strategy Installation Agency and Brigadier General Dadang Hendrayudha was appointed as the Director General for Defense Potential.
Widodo's approval of the appointments, continued Hamid, complements his previous error of appointing Prabowo as Defense Minister.
Widodo, said Hamid, has totally surrendered control of the country's defense to a person who was allegedly involved in crimes against humanity, including the forced disappearances of activists in 1998.
"And now this person (Prabowo) has continued this with the appointment of people legally implicated in the abductions who were tried by a military tribunal", he said.
Hamid believes that this sends a worrying signal that the country's leaders have already forgotten the dark days and worst violations that were committed during Suharto's New Order regime.
This is despite the fact that Amnesty has consistently called on the government to ensure that past cases of human rights violations be fully investigated and resolved in accordance with the law.
"Instead of taking those suspected of being responsible for crimes to court, the government is further opening its doors to people who were implicated in past human rights violations [and placing them] in position of power", said Hamid.
"This isn't just the pragmatism of power politics, but an insult to upholding human rights during the era of reformasi", he added referring to the political reform process which began in 1998.
Between 1997 and 1998 as many as 23 pro-democracy activists were abducted by the Rose Team. After extended periods of detention – in many cases the victims were severely tortured – most were released although 13 remain missing and are presumed dead. Former Kopassus commander Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto who was at the time President Suharto's son-in-law, has admitted to ordering the abductions but denies ordering their torture and claims they were all released alive and well. In April 1999 the Military High Court convicted four officers over the abductions including Yulius Selvanus and Dadang Hendrayudha who received sentences ranging from 16 to 20 months in prison. Prabowo himself was discharged from the military over the affair but has never been tried in court.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Eks Tim Mawar Jadi Pejabat Kemhan, Jokowi Dinilai Makin Ingkar Janji".]