Nur Janti, Jakarta – Concern over potential conflicts of interest have resurfaced after the selection committee for the next commissioners of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has approved an active police officer as a candidate.
Civil society organizations have raised their concern over Insp. Gen. Remigius Sigid Tri Hardjanto, who heads the legal division of the National Police, was named among the 50 long-listed candidates to lead the independent human rights institution in 2022-2027.
Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid told The Jakarta Post on Thursday that the concern over potential conflicts of interest had emerged, as the police have been repeatedly under Komnas HAM's spotlight over alleged human rights violations.
"There have been so many cases of the police abusing power, committing violence, being repressive, or being politically instrumentalized by a ruling regime," he said.
Usman added that the Paris Principles encouraged diverse backgrounds when selecting members of a national human rights body.
The Paris Principles is a set of internationally recognized standards to assess the credibility, independence and effectiveness of human rights institutions in six main areas: competence, autonomy from the government, constitutionally guaranteed independence, pluralism, adequate resources and powers of investigation.
However, the standards are formulated on the assumption of an ideal democratic state and an independent police institution that balance the interests of government and society.
Those standards may not necessarily be suitable for applying to a democracy that was not yet established like Indonesia, Usman said, where "the police tend to defend the interests of the ruling government instead of balancing its role in protecting the interests of society, or to protect and serve society".
Indonesia is classified as a "flawed democracy" in the latest Democracy Index from the Economist Intelligence Unit, published in February 2022. The country ranks 52nd out of 167 countries, up from 64th in the previous index, although it is still outranked by Malaysia at 39th, according to VOI.
Komnas HAM commissioner Sandrayati Moniaga also voiced the same concern earlier, saying that candidates must be independent for the state body to function as a watchdog to hold the government to account and to advance human rights in the country.
During the presentation of candidates' vision and mission at the National Library in Central Jakarta on Wednesday, Remigius said he understood the public's concerns over potential conflicts of interest if he was selected as a Komnas HAM commissioner, and that the job entailed questioning fellow members of the police force.
Remigius also underlined that he would be firm in fulfilling his duties. "It is an opportunity [since] I have served in the police for a long time, with the investigative experience to follow up on cases of human rights violations," he said.He added that he was retiring from the National Police in October, so even if he was selected now, he would no longer be an active police officer when the new commissioners were installed in November.
Remigius also vowed to resolve past human rights violations and prevent future violations.
According to the National Police website, Remigius has headed is legal division since December 2021. Before that, he served as the head of the North Sulawesi Police head since 2018.
'Still early stage'
Deputy chair Kamala Chandrakirana of the Komnas HAM selection committee told the press on Wednesday that the 50 candidates had passed the administrative requirements of the early stage of the selection process, which included a written test and an essay on human rights.
Kamala said that the 50 candidates came from a variety of backgrounds and met the diversity requirements for commissioners of the national rights watchdog.
"This is still [at] a very early stage. We had a public dialogue today so we can hear from the candidates and the public can also ask the candidates [questions]. And we continue to welcome input from the public," she said.
Kamala is a well-known women's rights activist, a cofounder of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace and a former chair of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan).
Komnas HAM has had previous commissioners with a police background, such as Koesparmono Irsan, who was a commissioner in 1998-2007.
But Usman said that even though he had retired, Koesparmono could not make a clean break from the police force, continuing to maintain "his esprit de corps".
Usman also noted that during the current administration, several active and retired police officers had taken up roles in various government institutions, such as active senior police officer Comr. Gen. Andap Budhi Revianto, who is the incumbent Law and Human Rights Ministry secretary-general, and semi-retired Insp. Gen. Reynhard S.P. Silitonga, who is the ministry's corrections director. Meanwhile, Home Minister Tito Karnavian was a former National Police chief.
"It's hard to deny this phenomenon is part of the police's further penetration into various nonpolice institutions," he said.