Monday, April 12, 2010

Sjafrie Appointment Goes to Court

A suit calling for the annulling of a presidential decree appointing Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsuddin as deputy defense minister was filed in a Jakarta court last week. The action was brought by survivors and families of human rights violations from the 1998 riots and the kidnapping of student and political activists in 1997 and 1998. Sjafrie was Jakarta military commander at the time. According to the Jakarta Post, the plaintiffs are "represented by several rights groups, including the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute and the Setara Institute."

Usman Hamid, coordinator of KontraS said Sjafrie's appointment
“could hamper future attempts to investigate his role in alleged rights violations....Even when he was still a military commander he ignored a subpoena from the National Commission on Human Rights [investigating the May riots], so imagine how much more impunity this new position will afford him.”
The National Commission team’s report
"highlighted the gravity of the rights violations during the riots and “indicated that the military leadership was responsible for those incidents, including Wiranto, Prabowo, Sjafrie and others”, said Abdul Hakim, the commission chairman at the time."
According to Kompas
There are two grounds for the suit according to Kontras coordinator Usman Hamid. The first is that the presidential decree violates the law because it appointed Sjamsoeddin -- who is still an active Indonesian military (TNI) officer -- to a civilian and political post. "This shows that that President Yudhoyono has no commitment to implementing civil supremacy," said Hamid.

The second reason is that based on input from the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), Sjamsoeddin should be examined by an ad hoc human rights court for human rights violations. The results of Komnas HAM's investigation clearly states that Sjamsoeddin is in part responsible for the abduction of 13 activists who disappeared in 1997-1998, the Trisakti shootings in 1998 and the Semanggi shootings in 1998 and 1999. 
In January, ETAN said Sjafrie's appointment "undermines human rights accountability and civilian control of the military," calling it "This is Suharto redux, leaving the military in charge of itself."

General Sjamsuddin has spent most of his career in Indonesian military's brutal Kopassus special forces. Trained in the U.S. in 1985 and Australia in 1993, he is accused of coordinating several of the most notorious events in East Timor, including the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre and the post-referendum violence in 1999. Sjamsuddin was refused a visa to accompany President Yudhoyono on his visit the United States in October 2009.

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