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Attorney general's statement on Semanggi tragedies 'act against the law': Court

Jakarta Post - November 5, 2020

Budi Sutrisno, Jakarta – The Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) has granted a lawsuit filed by family members of victims of the Semanggi tragedies against Attorney General ST Burhanuddin over his statement that the tragedies that claimed at least 29 lives were not gross human rights violations.

The court said there was a substantial flaw in Burhanuddin's statement, which he delivered earlier this year, and concluded his action as an "act against the law" committed by a government official.

"Besides containing falsehood [...] the defendant's statement also violated the principle of accuracy of the general principles of good governance," the panel of judges stated in the verdict.

The judges required Burhanuddin to immediately make a statement in his next working meeting with the House of Representatives that the Semanggi tragedies were serious human rights violations based on the result of investigation by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).

Burhanuddin made the controversial remark during a hearing with the House on Jan. 16, stating that a House plenary meeting had "concluded that the events [Semanggi tragedies] were not gross human rights abuses".

According to expert witnesses, however, the Constitutional Court said in 2007 that all parties, including the House, could not conclude human rights violations cases before the investigation process was complete.

Komnas HAM has submitted the dossiers of its investigation into the Semanggi tragedies to the Attorney General's Office (AGO), but the process has been stalled in the AGO for years.

Another argument by the experts was that the major obstacle in solving cases of serious human rights violations, especially the Trisakti and Semanggi tragedies in the late 1990s, had never been the lack of legal capacity, but the lack of political will to handle the cases.

"We hope that the attorney general accepts the verdict and affirms that the government is willing to settle this case with strategic actions," Muhammad Isnur of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Highlighting the lack of political will, Trioria Pretty from the Semanggi I and II Justice Coalition said the AGO had never issued an order to Komnas HAM to arrest and search certain parties, as Komnas HAM has limited authority to carry out such tasks.

"It was proven in the trial that there was no agreement between Komnas HAM and the AGO to carry out reconciliation [for past abuse cases] in accordance with the results of case studies in Bogor [West Java] in 2016, which the government has been pushing for," Trioria said.

Maria Catarina Sumarsih, a mother whose son Benardinus "Wawan" Realino Norma Irawan was among those who died during protests that took place from Nov. 11 to 13, 1998 – which later became known as the Semanggi I tragedy – said the ruling that favored the victims brought hope for the realization of the reform agenda that the 1998 student movement had fought for.

Another string of protests in Jakarta took place on Sept. 24, 1999, during which at least 12 more people were killed in a number of locations in the city. The violent day was later remembered as Semanggi II.

"Hopefully, the failure of the AGO to settle this case can be a lesson for law enforcement agency that should understand its duties and obligations in a rule of law," Maria said.

Komnas HAM commissioner Choirul Anam said the House's conclusion that the Semanggi tragedies were not a violation of human rights was only a political opinion, not a legal product.

"This court decision is very important because it can help correct the misunderstanding about the [2002] law on human rights courts by some parties, including the attorney general," he said.

He said this verdict marked a positive trend in the court this year following the PTUN's earlier ruling on June 3 that declared the internet blackout in Papua unlawful.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/11/04/attorney-generals-statement-on-semanggi-tragedies-act-against-the-law-court.htm