Kyra Jasper | Summer Internship - Indonesian Institute for an Independent Judiciary (Jakarta)

In the summer of 2022, I conducted preliminary research for my honors thesis on the history of Indonesia’s Human Rights Court. As a result of several massacres in East Timor in the 1990s, the international community called for the establishment of an international tribunal to try alleged gross human rights violations similar to the tribunals established in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. In order to prevent an international tribunal from trying military officials for crimes against humanity, Indonesia’s president issued a decree for the establishment of the Human Rights Court system in Indonesia, a version of which was codified by the Indonesian parliament in 2000.

Numerous institutions are involved in the pro-judicia, pre-investigation, and investigation stages of each case being brought to trial; that is, even before the defendants and legal parties convene in the court room. The law requires the Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to conduct a pre-investigation to determine if there is sufficient evidence of human rights violations. The Indonesian Attorney General, upon the acceptance of Komnas HAM’s report, is then tasked to complete an investigation within 180 days. The Attorney General has accepted the reports submitted by Komnas HAM for three instances (the atrocities committed in East Timor in 1999, in Tanjung Priok area of Jakarta in 1984, and in Abepura region of Papua in 2000). As a result, the last case to be tried in the Human Rights Court also marked the “closing” of the Court process in 2006 until this year.

My honors thesis explores the institutional, political, and societal changes that brought a stop to the trials. The research I was able to conduct as an intern at the Indonesian Institute for an Independent Judiciary (LeIP) chronicles the demise in the relationship between Komnas HAM and the Attorney General’s Office. I argue that a confluence of institutional changes within Komnas HAM and the Attorney General’s Office diminished the quality of the pre-investigation reports and increased Attorney General’s Office’s resistance to investigate and prosecute cases.

Developing a deep understanding of the history of the Human Rights Court’s inception and progression has been important preparation for me to begin trial monitoring the latest case to be brought to a Human Rights Court in October 2022. After more than 16 years, a case indicting a liaison officer of the Indonesian military for alleged crimes against humanity committed in Paniai, Papua (in Eastern Indonesia) is being tried in the Human Rights Court in Makassar.

Understanding the process of how these cases are brought to the Court and studying past challenges that other cases have faced both before and during the trial has made me more aware of key issues while trial monitoring. Getting to work alongside leading practitioners and scholars of Indonesian law and legal institutions has strengthened my analysis of the trial proceedings and has inspired me to pursue a career in the intersection of law and academia.

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