Indonesian human rights group pushes for law change to put Myanmar junta on trial
- The group, which includes a former attorney general, wants the constitutional court to drop the phrase ‘by Indonesian citizens’ from human rights law
- If successful, the amendment will allow a foreign court to put the Myanmar junta on trial for its multiple human rights violations
The legislation permits a degree of “extraterritoriality”, which means that a court can be established as long as the accused is an Indonesian citizen, if the crime occurs beyond Indonesian territory.
The petitioners, who campaign under an umbrella group called The Universality of Human Rights, argue that the law violates the Indonesian constitution.
“The Indonesian constitution guarantees the protection of human rights universally. This can be demonstrated by the use of the phrase ‘everyone’ in the articles on human rights protection. The 1945 Constitution also protects human rights regardless of citizenship,” the group said in a statement.
“Indonesia can live up to the commitments and ideals of the 1945 Constitution, in protecting human rights universally, if the phrase ‘by Indonesian citizens’ is removed by the Constitutional Court.”
Among the group’s members include prominent activists such as lawyer Marzuki Darusman who served as Indonesia’s attorney general from 1999 to 2001.
The petition is also supported by the legal aid arm of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest moderate Muslim group, as well as the Legal Aid Institute for the Press.
Fery Amsari, a constitutional law expert from Andalas University in West Sumatra who is also part of the group, said it was difficult to seek justice for the people of Myanmar in international courts as the crisis-hit nation is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
“It is also impossible to try the Myanmar junta in their own courts, because they cannot judge themselves. Meanwhile, many Asean officials come back and forth to Jakarta, where the Asean headquarters is located.
“Therefore, if we remove the phrase ‘by Indonesian citizens’ in the law, then there will be the possibility that perpetrators of gross human rights violations anywhere can be tried in the Human Rights Court in Indonesia, as long as they are in Indonesian territory,” Fery said.
Fery hopes that lawmakers, including the government, would be “moved” by the plight of Myanmar nationals “and support our case so Myanmar can have a better future”.
“We really hope that Indonesia can be a human rights capital, a country that upholds the principles of human rights. Any perpetrator of gross human rights violation that enters Indonesian territory could be at risk of being tried at Indonesian human rights court,” he said.
According to the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, the total number of people killed by the Myanmar junta so far exceeded 2,000 in June, while 15,000 have been arrested or have disappeared.
In Myanmar, some 1.2 million people have been displaced and over 14 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian help, according to UN data.