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39 years on, Amnesty calls for new investigation into 1984 Tanjung Priok tragedy

Kompas.com - September 13, 2023

Jakarta – Amnesty International Indonesia is urging the government to reinvestigate the gross human rights violations that occurred during the Tanjung Priok tragedy in 1984.

Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said that the incident, which occurred 39 years ago, must be reopened taking into account the evidence that has been gathered.

"We urge the state to immediately reinvestigate the case, taking into account all the necessary evidence and look for the truth that has not yet been revealed until the victim feel a sense of justice", Hamid said in a written statement on Wednesday September 13, 2023

Hamid said that even though decades have passed since the incident occurred, the victims still feel inured because there has been no seriousness on the part of the government to uphold justice in the case.

Yet the Tanjung Priok incident was included in the list of 12 incidents of past gross human rights violations that were publically acknowledged by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in January.

Usman said that in the reinvestigation, it must be ensured that all the perpetrators involved in the incident are punished fairly.

"Including the mastermind that was behind it, [that they be] tried according to prevailing law and based on the principle of justice that is fair", he added.

"The state should also provide appropriate compensation for the families of the victims who have suffered as a result of this tragedy, including compensation, restitution and rehabilitation. The state through the DPR [House of Representatives] also needs to immediately ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) so that humanitarian crimes such as the Tanjung Priok tragedy do not happen again", concluded Hamid.

The Tanjung Priok tragedy

The Tanjung Priok incident occurred on September 12, 1984 and is one of the humanitarian crimes that took place during the New Order administration of former president Suharto.

A document published by Amnesty International in 1985 titled "Statement of Amnesty International's Concerns in Indonesia" (https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa21/033/1985/en/) revealed that security forces fired into a crowd of Muslims who at that time were holding a protest at a police station and the North Jakarta Kodim (district military command) headquarters demanding the release of four people who had been detained earlier.

In the Amnesty report it said that 30 people who were killed after being struck by bullets fired by security forces and that some 200 people were arrested on various charges such as attacking state officials, damaging property and spreading false news.

According to findings by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), there were 79 victims, 55 of which suffered minor injuries and 24 others who died.The Tanjung Priok tragedy was heard by an ad hoc Human Rights Court in Jakarta in 2003. Twelve defendants were found guilty and the state was instructed to provide compensation, restitution and rehabilitation to the victims and their families.

The defendants then submitted an appeal and in 2005 the Jakarta High Court acquitted the accused. The prosecution then submitted an appeal with the Supreme Court.

In 2006 however, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal by the prosecution to annul the earlier acquittal on the grounds that the case was not a human rights violation (because the victims were armed) and the case must be dealt with in a criminal court, not an ad hoc Human Rights Court.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "39 Tahun Tragedi Tanjung Priok, Amnesty Internasional Desak Kasus Kembali Diusut".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2023/09/13/14394981/39-tahun-tragedi-tanjung-priok-amnesty-internasional-desak-kasus-kembal