FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 18, 2010
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
INDONESIA: Lack of effective witness and victim protection
Since the Witness and Victim Protection Law was enacted in 2006, little progress has been made regarding witness and victim protection because of a lack of political will. Therefore, the judicial system still lacks fairness and human rights violations continue to go unpunished.
It took five years for the House of Representatives and the Justice and Human Rights Ministry to even consider establishing a witness protection law. The Witness and Victim Protection Agency Law was enacted in 2006, but it took a year for the government to select agency members. Therefore, the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (Lembaga Perlindungan Saksi dan Korban or LPSK) was created as late as 2008 and only received funds from the government to finance its activities in December 2008, making it difficult for the agency to implement its programs. All in all, the Agency suffers a lack of employees and budget that jeopardizes its efficiency. In 2008, the LPSK received 10 witness or victim protection requests, while in 2009, 74 people asked for protection. The increasing number of demands contrasts with the LPSK’s actual capacity to efficiently protect people and illustrates the very real need for an effective Agency.
Financial difficulties cannot be an excuse from the Indonesian government, if we consider its bad budget management. According to experts, the government failed to spend 38 trillion rupiah (about 4 billion U.S. dollars), which represents 30% of its 2009 budget. Moreover, at the end of 2009, 150 state officials received new Toyota Crown Royal Saloons, valued at Rp 1.3 billion (8,000) each, to be used for work purpose. According to Abdul Chalik Masulili, the Health Ministry’s director for Jamkesmas, a health security scheme for the poor, the money spent on a single Toyota Crown would have been sufficient to provide health coverage for 21,667 poor people a year – or would have been much needed by an agency such as the LPSK.
In addition, even though the LPSK is charged by the law with providing witnesses and victims with restitution or compensation through the courts, families and victims are often denied that aspect of the right to remedy. For example, the Tanjung Priok massacre case has been turned down by the Supreme Court and no perpetrators of the extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture cases, unfair trials and arbitrary arrests and detentions have been punished. Consequently, no reparations were accorded to the families and victims. It appears that reparations rely on the government’s will to acknowledge an incident and not on the legal proceedings based on law and fair trials. No justice can ever be achieved without reparations.
Generally, the Agency’s independence and integrity can be put into question. First, the use of political considerations from both the President and the House of Representatives when selecting the LPSK’s members is incompatible with the neutral and independent protection of witnesses and victims of crimes, which have possibly been perpetrated by the authorities themselves. Then, a conversation was recorded between former LPSK deputy chairman Ketut Sudiarsa and Anggodo Widjojo, a businessman and brother of graft-fugitive Anggoro Widjojo, during which Sudiarsa offered to protect the latter, in violation of the Witness and Victim Protection Law. According to Gadjah Mada University (Yogyakarta) legal expert Zainal Arifin Muchtar, “The LPSK issue was a true depiction of the ugly and corrupt face of the selection process used for high ranking officers in law enforcement institutions”. The population should be able to trust and respect the members of law-enforcement institutions, so that the latter can be truly efficient. A fairer process, selecting honest, trusted and experienced persons should be implemented.
Finally it can be asserted that the Agency still fails to protect witnesses and victims of crimes and human rights violations who are, as well as their families, often victims of threats, intimidation or violence and who live with the fear of being killed or disappeared. In 2008, eleven witnesses claimed to be threatened. They all sought police protection and received none. People who dare to denounce human rights violations also face defamation charges. Mr. Usman Hamid, a coordinator of the Commission for disappeared and victims of violence, and a witness in the trial of Mr. Muchdi Purwopranjono – the alleged instigator of the murder of human rights icon, Munir Said Thalib in 2004 – was accused of committing criminal defamation. Two anti-corruption activists were also accused of defamation by the Attorney General's Office, after their group pointed out a multi-trillion rupiah gap in the AGO’s annual budget and called for an investigation. These are two among many cases of restricting freedom of expression by criminalizing the actions of whistleblowers and human rights defenders.
It must be underlined that there can be no justice without a proper protection of witnesses and victims. Impunity will continue to prevail if witnesses and victims replace don’t feel confident enough to complain or testify. However, many cases are reported where police officers refuse to take up complaints, destroy evidence or threaten people who are trying to denounce a crime. All in all, a partial police force, fear of reprisals and no effective protection of witnesses and victims leads to a general failure of justice and a lack of fair trials in Indonesia. The LPSK should be given sufficient means in order to carry out its essential mission. It should also be considered that protecting witnesses and victims also means making sure that their complaints are taken up, which implies deep changes in the police culture. Effective witness protection is a necessary step to address the culture of impunity and human rights violations. Without substantial support from all state departments the LPSK cannot start its work effectively and fill the protection gap that it is supposed to fill.
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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.
Posted on 2010-02-18