A group of Indonesian rights advocates, including a former attorney general, are petitioning for Indonesia’s constitutional court to amend the country’s human rights law so legal action can be taken against the Myanmar junta. The move, if successful, would allow a court in Southeast Asia to prosecute the Myanmar junta for its numerous human rights violations for the first time. A trial against human rights violators can only occur if the crimes are committed by Indonesian citizens, according to Indonesia ’s Human Rights Court law issued in 2000. 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.” ‘Democracy at risk’: Indonesia row over controversial criminal code heats up Among the group’s members include prominent activists such as lawyer Marzuki Darusman who served as Indonesia’s attorney general from 1999 to 2001. He also founded Asean ’s Human Rights Resource Centre in 2010, and served as chair of an independent fact-finding mission on Myanmar under the United Nations ’ Human Rights Council in 2017. In 2010, he was appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea . His other work included participation in a UN inquiry into the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2008. He was also part of the UN team that sought accountability for alleged war crimes during Sri Lanka ’s civil war. 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. Myanmar coup leader Min Aung Hlaing had visited Jakarta in April 2021 to attend an emergency summit discussing the situation in Myanmar, his first foreign trip following the coup in February 2021. In October 2021, he was excluded from an Asean summit following objection from some of the bloc’s member states, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, after he failed to implement the Five Point Consensus that Asean had drawn up to de-escalate Myanmar’s post-coup crisis. Senior representatives of the Myanmar junta have also been barred from Asean meetings, including the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in February this year. 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”. Asean in uncharted waters as it snubs Myanmar junta chief If the petition succeeds, it will also pave the way for the trial of other perpetrators of alleged gross human rights violations, such as the treatment of Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang and the Palestine occupation by Israel , Fery said. “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.