A Quarter Century Of Komnas HAM Still A Challenge: Reflection

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On Monday, July 9, 2018, the celebration of a quarter century or 25 years of Komnas HAM was held in Komnas HAM parking area. Attending the event were hundreds of Komnas HAM staff in Jakarta and from the representative office. The event is more festive and nostalgic nuance with the presence of dozens of former members of Komnas HAM from various periods. Among them were Albert Hasibuan, HS Dillon, Zoemrotin, MM Billah, Hasto Atmojo, Lies Sugondo, Siti Noor Laila, Muhammad Nurkhoiron, Nurkholis, Roichatul Aswidah, Imdadun Rahmat, Ansori Sinungan, Ridha Saleh, Amidhan and Said Nizar.

The event was followed by a workshop with six speakers, namely Albert Hasibuan (Komnas HAM Member 1993-1998), Ifdhal Kasim (Chairman of Komnas HAM 2007-2012), Maria Hartiningsih (Yap Thiam Hien Award Winner), Yunianti Chuzaifah (Member of Komnas Perempuan ), Arif Zulkifli (Editor of Tempo Magazine), and Titin Rosmasari (CNN Indonesia Editor). The speakers shared their experiences and views with regard to Komnas HAM’s work in the past and how to reform it in accordance with the present era.

After the workshop, the activity continued with the tumpeng rice cutting done by the leaders and members of Komnas HAM, to be submitted to the former members of Komnas HAM and Komnas HAM staff representative. The tumpeng handover ceremony was very lively, colored with intimacy and laughter among them.

Founded 25 years ago, in the twilight of Soeharto’s New Order, one senses apathy about the human rights body, the second established in Southeast Asia following that of the Philippines.  Komnas HAM also mandated by Paris Principles which  set out the basic guidelines recommended by the U.N. in the establishment of a national human rights institution.

In the first years skepticism was high; Komnas HAM was formed after global outrage at the 1991 Santa Cruz shootings in Dili, the capital of today’s Timor Leste. However, the first commission headed by retired military officer and Supreme Court justice Ali Said soon became a thorn in the side of the regime. Commissioners managed to create some independent space and deliver reports such as that regarding the May 1998 riots, which was regarded as extraordinary as the military, which still included the police, had never faced criticism from a state body outside its control.

Ironically the commission’s credibility declined after Soeharto stepped down, even as more activists became members. Even a special law on Komnas HAM did not help boost its effectiveness. Despite the commission needing to speak with one voice in spite of differences, rifts became apparent.[1]

Last month, Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo said investigations into past human rights abuses face the challenge of time, as both witnesses and perpetrators “may not even be alive anymore.” He reportedly referred to Komnas HAM’s report as “assumptions and opinions.” The attorney general’s comment came even after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo reaffirmed his commitment to resolving cases of past human rights abuses and instructed Prasetyo to follow up on these cases.

The attorney general’s comment came even after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo reaffirmed his commitment to resolving cases of past human rights abuses and instructed Prasetyo to follow up on these cases.[2]

His comment might be wrong because from Komnas HAM’s history we know that The commission managed to establish ad-hoc human rights trials for the cases of shootings in Abepura in Papua, Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta and the former East Timor. Human rights training for police and military also started under previous commissions. It means Komnas HAM have strong capability and experienced on investigating past human right abused.

In that case, finally public know that the two main challenges that prevent investigations of human rights violations from going forward are a lack of cooperation from the attorney general and from security forces.  The attorney general and the Komnas HAM didn’t have full cooperation to resolve the cases. Despite of another problems that members of the military and police do not always give their full cooperation when called in by Komnas HAM, which negatively affects the commission’s investigations. The role of Jokowi as president who have good will to resolved the past human right abused is matters here. Jokowi should play the role to call strong collaboration of all the stakeholder to perform for the shake of transitional justice.

A lot of recommendation from civil society for Komnas HAM to resolve the case.  Komnas HAM must undergo a review, to have its mandate revised, so that it could have more authority to ensure that the results of its investigations are binding on the next institution that is responsible for dealing with such cases. But in the other hand, Komnas HAM must on the Paris Principles track because it’s mandated.

While the Paris Principles are a good starting point as normative principles, their limitations are best illustrated through an examination of the record of activities of human rights commissions. It is certainly true that compliance with the Paris Principles, many of which set a high standard, will augment the chances of ensuring an active and serious human rights commission. But, the compliance with these principles in a founding statute will not ultimately guarantee a robust commission without commissioners who are committed to making respect for human rights a reality and are willing to stand firm in the face of inevitable resistance from other government departments. These also is the reason why Komnas HAM’s policy needs reviewed.

Another battle is about Komnas HAM credibility. The new commission must restore credibility, made worse by budget misuse. Despite apathy, the continuing impunity for unresolved cases and heightened political tension starkly demonstrates the need for a much better human rights body, as victims find their voices drowned in various disputes. Land conflicts remain rampant, for instance.

Writter: Sekar Banjaran Aji

[1] http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2017/05/18/editorial-restoring-faith-in-komnas-ham.html

[2] http://jakartaglobe.id/news/komnas-hams-mandate-may-need-review-to-resolve-human-rights-cases-amnesty-intl/

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