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Signs of change, but Indon military still hol -

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Signs of change, but Indon military still holds sway

The World Today - Tuesday, 9 June , 2009 12:38:00

Reporter: Peter Cave

PETER CAVE: Indonesia's leading human rights advocate says Indonesia's military remains above the
law but he remains optimistic that change is underway in his country.

Lawyer Usman Hamid heads KONTRAS, the Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence in
Indonesia.

He says he takes heart from the fact that police felt confident enough to at least charge a former
senior general and head of Intelligence with the murder of his predecessor as head of KONTRAS.

But he says it's worrying that former general Prabowo Subianto, accused of gross abuses of human
rights in East Timor, is currently campaigning to become vice-president.

Usman Hamid is in Australia to address a conference on reform of the security sector in Indonesia.

I asked him why he believed the military remained above the law.

USMAN HAMID: Ten years after the fall of Suharto, military business, military violation, remains
unaccountable. There are many human rights abuses in the past during Suharto's era which has not
been brought to justice.

Particularly crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999 and not a single person for those
responsible for the crimes have been brought to justice.

PETER CAVE: Do you think it will ever happen?

USMAN HAMID: I think it should happen. I mean, the recent result of Indonesian election has bring a
new composition in the Parliament where it can bring a new hope for bringing past human rights
abuses to a tribunal through the approval of Parliament.

PETER CAVE: You've talked about bringing the people who committed human rights abuses in the past
to justice. What about the current situation?

USMAN HAMID: I think the current situation has shown more space of freedom but has some limits,
especially with relations to religious freedoms but also on the other hand, there are some violence
that remains continuous.

On one hand in Aceh, a peace process has bring a new hope for peace, for security in Aceh, but on
the other hand, violence remains continued in Papua, or in the case of the murder of human right
defenders six years after the fall of Suharto, in this case Munir Said Thalib, has shown a very
serious threats against democratisation in Indonesia and I think this is a challenge for Indonesian
civil society to work democratisations.

PETER CAVE: Munir of course was your predecessor. Does it give you some hope that at last a senior
member of the security forces looks like he may be brought to book for this murder?

USMAN HAMID: I think last year the arrest and detention of former commander of Indonesian Special
Forces Major General Muchdi PR is a very significant step taken by the police, by the Indonesian
authorities in relation to the involvement of senior level of military generals, but the recent
decision of the court acquitted the general have shown that impunity is still very strong. It has
never been happened.

In the case of East Timor where international community has been paying so much attention, there
was no single former military general or police who has been detained for crimes against humanity
in East Timor so in this case I think it is the first time ever that Indonesian police detained
former military general in relations to the murder of human rights activists.

PETER CAVE: And that makes you optimistic?

USMAN HAMID: I think it gives a new hope. It gives a window of opportunity for change in Indonesia.

PETER CAVE: That was lawyer Usman Hamid, who heads KONTRAS - the Commission for Disappearances and
Victims of Violence in Indonesia.