Indonesia: Fostering Impunity - President Promotes Human Rights Criminal as Deputy Defense Minister
On 6 January Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin was appointed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to the position of deputy
defence minister. Sjarfie was the Jakarta military commander during the last years of Surhato’s rule in 1997 and is
widely believed to be responsible for the still unexplained forced disappearances of 23 student activists.
One of the key events that led to the reformation of the current Indonesian state, were protests against Suharto's New
Order regime and the abuses of the past. In 1997/98 students and other activists were abducted and forcibly disappeared
by the Army Special Forces Command (known as Kopassus), under the command of Sjafrie, because of their political
activism in the struggle for change and democracy.
Sjafrie and the officers under his command are also implicated in the human rights abuses during the Bloody May riots of
1998 in which rioters attacked Chinese-Indonesian businesses and raped Chinese-Indonesian women in Jakarta and in other
cities, as well as for crimes committed in East Timor.
For more than a decade local non-governmental organisations such as Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of
Violence (KONTRAS), as well as the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) have urged the government to
resolve these cases and have conducted campaigns to push for justice for the victims and their families without success.
1) In 2006 KOMNAS HAM submitted a report to the Attorney General detailing the incidents of illegal arrest and
detention, torture and enforced disappearances which took place during the 1997 /98 protests. To date the attorney
general has continued to abdicate his duty to investigate these abuses.
2) In 2009 the House of Representatives recommended the establishment of an ad hoc human rights court to investigate the
forced disappearances of the student activists. So far no court has been established.
Victims and rights groups, including KONTRAS filed a petition on Monday 5th April 2010 challenging the appointment of
Sjafrie, who continues to bear criminal responsibility for the alleged atrocities committed under his command. Sjafrie’s
appointment should be challenged and he should be subject to a judicial investigation prior to any awarding of political
The appointment of Sjafrie is just the latest example of the prevalence of impunity in the current Indonesian government
which contains Surharto-era military figures, like Sjafrie, who block any attempt to investigate the crimes of the past
and continue to deny the victims of state abuse justice and truth.
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human
rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.