EI5: Bhatara Ibnu Reza
End Impunity is asking five international justice advocates from around the world five “simple” questions about their personal connection to the issue and the unique perspective that their region of the world provides them.
1. Why is the issue of international justice important to you?
Since the fall of Soeharto in 1998, Indonesia faces the problem of impunity. A number of violations and past human rights abuses cases have not been revealed by the State. Even though there were several cases such as the East Timor atrocities in 1999 and Tanjung Priok in 1984 already tried by the ad-hoc human rights tribunal. Unfortunately, these tribunals failed to provide justice, especially for victims and their families. Moreover, the Law of Human Rights Court of 2000 was used to try the perpetrator and not fulfill the standard of international law as regulated in the Rome Statute. Having said that, international justice has become important to achieve and there remains a continued effort for justice at the national level that would terminate the chain of impunity.
2. Does the region from where you are from have a particular perspective and attitude towards justice? How has this influenced you?
Unfortunately, Asia, and especially Southeast Asia, has contributed little to the issues of justice and accountability. Only a few countries such Indonesia and the Philippines have made efforts to achieve justice in the framework of combating impunity. However, “diplomacy” has undermined these efforts resulting in false reconciliation among states. One example is the establishment of the Commission on Truth and Friendship (CTF) between Indonesia and Timor Leste in 2005.
This commission was actually a reaction by Indonesia to the recommendation by the Commission of Experts to Review Prosecution of Serious Violations of Human Rights in Timor Leste (the then East Timor) in 1999 on 26 May 2005. One of recommendations was to establish the international criminal tribunal for Timor Leste since Indonesia failed to bring justice in a case where almost all perpetrators were freed by the ad-hoc human rights tribunal. In the end, the commission avoided any form of justice and accountability.
Based on this experience, there is a strong will from civil society in Indonesia and Timor Leste to seek justice in this case. In Southeast Asia, civil societies embrace justice and accountability by sharing their experiences which in turn strengthens our network throughout the region.
3. What are some successes and some failures of the International Criminal Court?
For the first time, the world has an independent and impartial court which attracted even the powerful countries to join or consider joining. Of course, the court should always keep its independence and impartiality, so that it is not wrongly interpreted as an institution which can be used for intervention in state’s law and sovereignty.
The main criticism of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) is its inability to investigate the atrocities outside the African continent. The atrocities in Burma, for instance, should be considered for investigation by the OTP, since the atrocities are massive, organized and supported by the state’s policies.
It is a must for the OTP to follow up any report from states or international organizations and civil societies regarding atrocities around the world, particularly when the evidence is clearly in their hand. Additionally, the OTP should dare to challenge members of the UN Security Council and convince them with strong arguments, such as when there is the failure to maintain responsibility to protect within a country that is not party to the statute.
4. Who are some of the perpetrators of mass crimes that you think should be indicted by the ICC? Do you think it will ever happen? Why?
President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan is one of the persons that should be tried by the court and so is Joseph Kony of the Lord Resistance Army. Allowing them to be free for so long gives them time to improve their image, so people do not think they are criminals. It is the right time for the OTP tofacilitate cooperation among states to arrest these people immediately.
Also Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen is an appropriate person to try in the court. Unfortunately he has been “saved” and continues with impunity because of an agreement by the UN. Once again, if the court allows this to happen it will become a bad precedent for the court, and some despotic regimes such Bashar Al Assad of Syria will also try to use this “Yemen Solution.” The court should play the important role to prevent the same situation in dealing with the situation in Syria.
5. How can the regular citizen from around the world play a part in the fight for international justice?
We can work together across border with all the citizens of the world to promote international justice and combat impunity. It is the time for us to join a united front against impunity. There is no reconciliation without justice. For such a purpose, it is important for civil society to continue our efforts to convince governments, law enforcers, and the military that joining the ICC and promoting international justice can prevent serious violations recognized by international law. Also, by celebrating the World Day of International Justice, we are embracing humanity and justice and reminding the world of the danger of impunity.
Bhatara Ibnu Reza is an Operational Director and a researcher of IMPARSIAL the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor. He is also an expert-member and a spoke-person of the Indonesian Civil Society for the International Criminal Court which is member of the Coalition International of the International Criminal Court. He works as a visiting lecturer of international law and international relations in several universities in Jakarta, Tangerang Bandung in Indonesia and also author several publications which can be found in Indonesian Journal International Law, the National Commission of Human Rights Journal and many local publications.
He graduated from Trisakti University in international law and hold two masters degree in International Relations from the University of Indonesia and graduate with honors in International Human Rights from Northwestern University School of Law, where he enroll as a Fulbright Scholar.