Human rights activists seek Indonesia court approval for universal jurisdiction

Arie Firdaus
2022.10.14
Jakarta
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Human rights activists seek Indonesia court approval for universal jurisdiction Protesters hold signs as they rally against the military junta outside the Indonesian Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar, Feb. 24, 2021.
Sai Aung Main/AFP

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court is considering a petition to review a human rights law to allow the nation to prosecute and punish members of Myanmar’s junta for alleged abuses following its military coup in early 2021.

If the review paves the way for the application of universal jurisdiction, Indonesia would be able to investigate and, if need be, prosecute atrocities committed by the Myanmar military. Under universal jurisdiction, a nation’s courts can investigate and prosecute anyone, not just citizens, for serious international crimes committed anywhere.

A nine-judge panel adjourned a session earlier this week to deliberate on whether to proceed after requesting amendments to the petition.

“Amendments to the petition will be brought to a meeting and we will decide whether the case should continue,” presiding Judge Wahiduddin Adams said. 

The petitioners include former Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, who chaired a United Nations independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar; Busyro Muqoddas, former chairman of the Judicial Commission; and the Alliance of Independent Journalists.

Article 5 of Indonesia’s Human Rights Tribunal Law reads, “A human rights tribunal is also authorized to examine and rule on cases of gross human rights violations committed outside the territorial limits of the Republic of Indonesia by Indonesian nationals.”

The petitioners have requested that the phrase “by Indonesian nationals” be struck down to allow for foreigners to be tried in Indonesia for abuses committed overseas.

Feri Amsari, a lawyer for the petitioners, expressed optimism.

“I am positive that it will continue because the substance of this case must be heard,” Feri told BenarNews.

He said applying universal jurisdiction is important because it is in line with the Constitution’s mandate that Indonesia have an active role in promoting world peace and justice.

“The state has the responsibility to protect victims of massive and systematic crimes against humanity, regardless of national boundaries,” Feri said. “Indonesia should show the way that there are no safe havens for gross human rights violators.”

Human rights group Amnesty International reported 147 nations had utilized universal jurisdiction involving one or more crimes as of 2012.

For instance, Argentina’s judiciary ruled in November 2021 that it would investigate allegations of war crimes in 2017 by the Myanmar military against the country’s Rohingya minority, under universal jurisdiction principles.

Myanmar junta criticized

The Indonesian petitioners seek to bring cases against Myanmar because it not a party to the International Criminal Court as it did not sign the Rome Statute, the treaty establishing the court.

Myanmar forces have killed more than 2,300 people since the military seized power by toppling an elected government on Feb. 1, 2021, according to activists and media reports.

Indonesia and other Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) members have criticized Myanmar’s military for failing to implement a five-point consensus agreed to by its junta chief, Min Aung Hlaing, and regional leaders on April 24, 2021.

The consensus called for an end to violence; constructive dialogue among all parties; the mediation of such talks by a special ASEAN envoy; the provision of ASEAN-coordinated humanitarian assistance; and a visit to Myanmar by an ASEAN delegation to meet with all parties.

Calls for ASEAN to punish Myanmar’s junta increased following the execution of four political prisoners in July.

Human rights activists welcomed the petition for universal jurisdiction.

“If it is granted, this is certainly positive because we can help break the barriers to protecting human rights in the region, including [abuses] endured by our brothers and sisters in Myanmar, and journalists in the Philippines who are often persecuted during elections, and in Thailand,” said Dinna Prapto Raharja, a former Indonesian representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.

Andreas Harsono, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Indonesia, echoed Dinna.

“It would be good if the court rules in favor because it would be a warning for officials to continue to respect human rights in making decisions,” Andreas told BenarNews.

He noted that Indonesia would be the first Southeast Asian country to adopt the principle.

“Once it becomes universal jurisdiction, not only citizens of other countries are affected, but our citizens can also be affected in other countries,” he said.

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Shayon
Oct 15, 2022 05:04 AM

Due to their expulsion from their home country, Rohingyas are losing their state rights, and at the same time, their fundamental rights are being violated. Wherever they seek safety, it is only for a short time. They should go back to their place of abode permanently to defend their rights.

Shishir Khan
Oct 15, 2022 05:28 AM

Any nation's fundamental rights cease to exist when their state rights are violated. I demand that Rohingyas have their rights back. They are entitled to certain privileges from the government as citizens. They ought to be given back to the state. Their rights are being taken away from them. As a result, their regular existence is being disturbed.

Quddus Shekh
Oct 15, 2022 07:25 AM

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court is considering a petition to review a human rights law to allow the nation to prosecute and punish members of Myanmar’s junta for alleged abuses following its military coup in early 2021.Indonesia’s Constitutional Court is considering a petition to review a human rights law to allow the nation to prosecute and punish members of Myanmar’s junta for alleged abuses following its military coup in early 2021.