Jakarta – The families of victims of the 1997-98 forced disappearance have sued TNI (Indonesian military) commander General Andika Perkasa over the appointment of Major General Untung Budiharto as Jakarta military commander (Panglima Kodam Jaya).
The suit was filed by the father of Ucok Munandar Siahaan, and Paian Siahaan and Hardingga, the children of Yani Afri. They are conducting the suit along with the Civil Society Coalition which includes Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), which is acting as their legal attorney.
"The suit has been launched against the decision by the TNI commander related to the appointment of TNI Major General Untung Budiharto as the Panglima Kodam Jaya", said Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) Management Board Chairperson Julius Ibrani in a written release on Saturday April 2.
The suit was registered with the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) as Number 87/G/2020/PTUN.JKT and with the Jakarta II High Military Court on Friday April 1.
Ibrani explained that the grounds for launching the suit with the PTUN and the Jakarta II High Military Court was because the plaintiffs believe that no legal construction exists covering the TNI commander's decree appointing Budiharto as Jakarta military commander.
"So there was no choice for the plaintiffs other than having to submit the issue to these two courts", he said.
The plaintiffs also explained that the appointment of Budiharto, who was allegedly involved in the abduction of democratic activists in 1997-98 as reported by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), only adds to the victims injuries.
"The appointment injures the struggle of the families of the victims and their advocates who are continuing to try to find the whereabouts of the victims who are still missing, but are the people who are the essence of this case", he said.
Furthermore they said, with this appointment General Perkasa has acted in the complete opposite of TNI Commander Telegram Number ST/1221/2021 dated November 5, 2021 in which it is guaranteed that there will be no obstacles to the law enforcement proceedings against soldiers who violate the law.
Because the telegram states that law enforcement officials such as the police and the Attorney General must coordinate with the TNI commander or unit head in summoning military personnel in a legal process.
It has the potential to obstruct law enforcement and human rights in the Kodam Jaya region", he said.
In January Perkasa conducted a rotation of posts and the former Jakarta military commander Major General Mulyo Aji was promoted to the post of Ministerial Secretariat Coordinator for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs.
The position of Jakarta military commander was subsequently filled by Budiharto. (CR07)
Between 1997 and 1998 as many as 23 pro-democracy activists were abducted by members of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus). 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, 11 low-ranking Kopassus officers including Untung Budiharto were tried by a military court for the kidnappings and given sentences of between a year and 22 months in prison, although six of them were allowed to remain in the army. Prabowo himself was discharged from the military for ordering the abductions but has never been tried in court.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Panglima TNI Andika Perkasa Digugat Keluarga Korban Penculikan 1997-1998, Ternyata Begini Faktanya".]