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Indonesia could bring Myanmar junta to justice after taking over ASEAN chair next year

Indonesia could bring Myanmar’s junta leaders to justice after the country takes over as the chair of ASEAN. A group of Indonesian legal experts may have found an impact on the fate of the junta that seized power in Myanmar. The experts made the case to amend a law that was enacted back in 2000 which restricts punishment for human rights violations to those committed only by Indonesian citizens. If that law’s amendment is accepted by the country’s Constitutional Court, Myanmar’s generals could see prosecution. According to The Irrawaddy, Indonesia’s constitutional Chapter XA, guarantees the protection of human rights to “every person.” However, Article 5 of the 2000 act deems that Indonesia’s Human Rights Court can “hear and rule cases of gross violations of human rights perpetrated by Indonesia citizens outside the boundaries of the Republic of Indonesia”

The legal team says they found a possible loophole as they say the original 1945 law does not mention the issue of citizenship, therefore, the law should be interpreted as holding up human rights universally. Furthermore, the experts say they want the wording, “by Indonesian citizens,” to be removed as they claim such a clause contradicts the original constitution.

THEMIS Indonesia Law Firm, Legal Aid Institution of Muhammadiyah and AJI issued a press release that said the court “has held its second hearing of a petition requesting a change in the law concerning the Human Rights Court. The move would allow cases to be heard in Indonesia against perpetrators of atrocity crimes in Myanmar.”

After the online hearing, three justices of the nine-member Constitutional Court were reported as being “very open” to the arguments of the petitioners. Although the amendment has a few more steps to go before its approved, the fact that the Constitutional Court held hearings on the case has attracted widespread attention in the country.

An opinion piece by the Jakarta Post saw writers at the newspaper taking sides.

“Should Indonesia’s Constitutional Court allow the case to be heard, this would be a win for Indonesian justice, a win for Indonesian diplomacy, a win for ASEAN, and, more important, a win for the 55 million people of Myanmar.”

But, critics say not to hold one’s breath. One reason is that ASEAN’s two principles of consensus and non-interference could stop Indonesia in its tracks. So far, ASEAN’s effort to solve the Myanmar crisis has been through the Five-Point Consensus, which is a peace plan that was adopted when the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing visited Jakarta on April 24, 2021. It calls for a cessation of violence and a “constructive dialogue between all parties concerned.”

Meanwhile, an anonymous source recently stated that Thailand was holding a non-official meeting between ASEAN members to discuss the situation in Myanmar. However, nothing official has been announced.

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Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.