Indonesia’s Jokowi still owes resolution of past rights abuses

A nun observes photographs of victims of past human rights abuses in front of the State Palace in Jakarta during a weekly rally that is locally known as Kamisan. This rally was the 417th since 2007 and it demanded demanding the government resolve the cases. (Seto Wardhana )

By Margareth S. Aritonang in Jakarta

After two years of running the country, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has still not fulfilled his campaign promise to address long-unresolved human rights abuse cases in Indonesia, a promise that is thought to have sealed his victory against his former contender Prabowo Subianto, who is implicated in the forced disappearances of pro-democracy activists in 1998.

“The government must fulfill its obligation to solve all cases of gross human rights violations that occurred in the past,” prominent human rights lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis said at a discussion yesterday.

“The President will forever owe us that promise unless he keeps his word.”

The unresolved cases that Jokowi promised to address consist of the 1989 Talangsari massacre, the forced disappearance of anti-Soeharto activists in 1997 and 1998, the Trisakti University shootings, the Semanggi I and Semanggi II student shootings in 1998 and 1999, the mysterious killing of alleged criminals in the 1980s, the anticommunist massacres of 1965 and various abuses that took place in Wasior and Wamena in Papua in 2001 and 2003, respectively.

Activist Al Araf from the Jakarta-based human rights watchdog Imparsial cited a lack of political will to prioritise human rights among Jokowi’s administration as a core reason behind the lagging attempts to address the issues during Jokowi’s two-year presidency.

As the world will commemorate International Human Rights Day today, Al Araf called for Jokowi and his subordinates to make the resolution of human rights abuse cases one of the government’s priority programs.

“Otherwise Jokowi’s regime will be no different to his predecessors,” he said.

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