It has been fifteen years after Indonesia witnessed one of its most crucial moments as a democratic country. The May 1998 political reform gave a lot of hopes, particularly on the protection and fulfillment of human rights. The hopes, however, remain grim. While Heinz Klug (2003) states that adopting the human rights principles is among the most important phases during the democratic transition, what we have seen today, even if it is a bitter pill to swallow, is the possibility for us to go back to authoritarianism.
After the reform, Indonesian government started it right by installing the human rights-related policies and regulation.
Following the strong global demand for reform, the Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR) issued Decree No. XVII/MPR/1998 on human rights. The decree was followed up with the issuance of Law No. 39 Year 1999 on human rights. The House of Representatives (DPR) also passed the Law No. 26 Year 2000 on human rights tribunal. The law is aimed to uphold the accountability of human rights tribunal in the future, as well as to process the human rights violation in the past.
Better substance of law on human rights protection was found in amendment of the Indonesian Constitution UUD 1945. The second made amendment in August 2000, as seen in the Article 28 A to Article 28 J, clearly states the state’s obligation to guarantee the human rights protection.
The Indonesian government also actively adopted the international human rights instruments. A major breakthrough occured in 2005 when the government adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Fifteen years, a long way to go?
Despite those improvements, the policy reform on human rights protection shows a setback after fifteen years of the reform. The fear of setback has risen upon examining the laws related with human rights principles that recently endorsed by the parliament members. A research conducted by ELSAM in 2009 recorded that the legislation products between 2004 and 2009 did not demonstrate the lawmakers’ supports toward human rights protection. There were only few laws that made to strengthen the human rights fulfillment.
During the law-making process, lawmakers often get involved in the unecessary debates on editorial substances and other minor things, but leave the human rights principles untouched. The House members rarely talk about the materials of the law, unless they are closely related to the party’s political interests. This is what happens when the legislative body is filled with transactional politics among parties. In addition to that, there is no any indicator to measure whether or not the laws follow human rights principles. The result is premature, disapointing laws that regulate nothing but technical matters (Saptaningrum, et.al, 2011).
Ideally, the human rights have to be the main foundation in every legislation policies, because the fulfillment of human rights is the core of the constitution. All bills, regardless to their substance, are connected to the human rights principles.
Amid criticism, the House and the Government passed the State Intelligence bill in October 2011 and the Social Conflict bill in April 2012. When the house began deliberating the National Security bill, many were concerned that the bill will harm the civil liberties and human rights protection.
Public scrutiny is also centered on the discussion of Civil Society Organizations bill, which materials are believed to threaten the freedom of association. The “enthusiasm” of the Parliament and the Government to immediately pass the bill somewhat creates an impression that the two keep desire to restrain the activities of organizations. If endorsed, the bill will enable the government to determine the definition of civil society organizations, the scope of the activity, the registration mechanism, the indefinite restriction and the threat of dissolution.
Continuation of the reform also faces the threat of institutional reform, particularly with regard to the settlement of human rights violations committed in the past. There are five Komnas HAM recommendation that stuck in the Attorney General’s Office (AGO), namely tragedy of Trisakti, Semanggi I and Semanggi II; Wasior-Wamena incident, the 1989 Talangsari incident; the 1998 May riots, and Enforced disappearances in 1997-1998. Recently, the Komnas HAM have handed over two new findings in the 1965-1966 tragedy and the 1982-1985 mysterious shooting. Of all seven cases, the AGO has yet to make any single investigation.
The President and AGO have been reluctant to immediately set up an ad hoc human rights court for the settlement of past human rights violation, denying the House’s recommendation on the enforced disappearances case in 1997-1998. It has been more than two years since the house recommended the President to establish an ad hoc human rights court for cases of enforced disappearance.
The lack of legal accountability for alleged violations of human rights in a number of events that occurred in the past is exacerbated by the stagnation of truth-seeking agenda following the Constitutional Court’s ruling in 2006. The court annuled the Law No. 27 Year 2004 on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The court recommended the establishment of TRC Act, which is in line with the 1945 Constitution and uphold the principles of humanitarian law and international human rights law, or any other equivalent policy.
Unfortunately, to date, the House and the President have yet to agree a new policy to replace the TRC Act. Various stagnation has delayed justice for the victims of human rights violations. The stagnation also means the uncertain recovery for their names.
Above all, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s ignorance and indecisiveness on human rights issues is even more disappointing. As the first leader who was directly elected by the Indonesian people, the president is expected to carry the reform agenda and foster democracy.
On the sidelines of the May Reform commemoration, the president and all of us must look back to 1998, remember how it all started and why we did it.
We moved from the dictatorship of New Order regime, an achievement, but we lost many lives while struggling for it. We learned it hard way and should not fall in the same hole twice. [ ]