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Kontras: 12 years of fighting for truth, justice and human rights

Kompas - March 20, 2010

It’s Thursday afternoon, March 18, and dozens of family members of victims of human rights violations are holding another “Kamisan” (Thursday Action), a silent protest in which they hold black umbrellas with the names of human rights cases written on them.

They stand in silence in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta. “The Thursday actions have been held since January 18, 2007. For 152 weeks now,” said Sumarsih, the mother of Wawan, a student who was shot dead in November 1998 in front of the Atma Jaya University in Jakarta.

These ongoing protests by families of human rights victims are like the actions of “crazy people”. They continue to faithfully endeavour to shed light on the mysteries behind cases of violence and fight for a resolution to cases of human rights violations.

There is a strength that makes them faithfully struggle in silence to promote truth and justice. This strength has a mystical dimension. “I do indeed still remember and feel the presence of my child who was shot”, said Sumarsih.

Efforts to uncover the mystery behind this violence and seek the truth also continue to be pursued by the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras). Since being established on March 20, 1998, Kontras has constantly carried out advocacy for activists, members of the public who have suffered state violence or the families of victims of violence during the New Order regime of former President Suharto.

Turning 12 years old on March 20, 2010, Kontras remains consistent in advocating for the victims of human rights violations, seeking a resolution to cases of human rights violations, and new cases of violence that emerge. Why is it necessary for cases of human rights violations to be resolved and not left hidden?

“Cases of gross human rights violations, such as abductions, the Semanggi case, and Munir’s murder, cannot be just considered as the cost of political reform. What happened in the past, being left in the past. Cases of human rights violations cannot just be neglected like that,” said Kontras Coordinator Usman Hamid.

And behind the cases of violence and human rights violations that have occurred, lie many mysteries that are yet to be exposed, such as the case of the abduction of activists in 1997-1998. After 12 years, according to Kontras’ records, 13 of these people are still missing. They are Sonny, Yani Afri, M Yusuf, Ismail, Dedi Hamdun, Noval Said Alkatiri, Wiji Thukul, Suyat, Herman Hendrawan, Bimo Petrus Anugerah, Ucok Munandar Siahaan, Yadin Muhidin and Hendra Hambali.

It was for this reason that the previous House of Representatives recommended the establishment of an ad hoc human rights court. The government was also called on to seek information on the fate of the 13, in accordance with the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM). But, the formation of a human rights court has simply marked time. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has yet to issue a presidential decree on its formation.


The families of the missing people on the other hand, continue to demand that the mystery be exposed. Indeed in the lead up to its 12 anniversary, Kontras has in fact found a key witness who can recount the story of the activists’ abduction. “After 12 years have passed, there is a witness that knows about the case of the activists’ abduction,” said Hamid.

Uncovering the mystery behind cases of human rights violations is indeed not just related to the 1997-1998 abductions. The Munir murder case is still a mystery. “Cases of premeditated murder committed by civilians are sometimes hard to bring to light, let alone cases of premeditated murder that are suspected to have been committed by intelligence personnel,” said the Deputy Executive Director of Indonesia’s Non-Government Organisation Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy (Koalisi LSM), Choirul Anam.

The uncovering of and resolution of the Munir murder case however has also been obstructed. The law has yet to touch the actors that are suspected of taking part in planning the murder. A great deal of mystery still surrounds the death of Munir, the figure who pioneered the formation of Kontras.

The wait for a resolution to cases of human rights violations will indeed be a long one. But Kontras continues to handle case of violence, such as violence in legal cases and land disputes between communities and the Indonesian military (TNI).

Take the recent case of Aan Susandhi (30) for example. Susandhi claims to have been mistreated by an individual from a fishing company right in front of police officers until he collapsed coughing blood. Susandhi has already reported the alleged mistreatment along with medical evidence to the Metro Jaya regional police. Kontras and Susandhi’s lawyer meanwhile have reported the alleged neglect by the police officers to the national police’s Division for Professionalism and Security. (FER)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

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