by: Yanti Mualim
YM: My guest is Professor Ko Swan Sik, an expert in international law. We have listened to a number of testimonies in the past few days. What is your view after hearing these testimonies, as a law expert and a person?
KS: Let’s first go from the human point of view: I think all of us feel the same. I myself am grateful that my family members were never victims. But we all believe that all of that actually happened. My question –and I think I’m not the only one – has always been: how could this have happened? There is this astonishment, how could this happen in Indonesia?
YM: That one person could do such things to another?
YM: So it is understandable that they are seeking justice?
KS: I can understand it. It is understandable for direct or indirect victims of those events: I can understand it as a human being.
YM: We have already heard some witnesses say in their testimonies that they feel relieved to be able to tell the tribunal what has happened to them. But from a legal point of view: what does this tribunal mean?
KS: I can understand why that question is asked, as this is indeed not a tribunal in the true sense of the word.
YM: So it has no meaning from a legal point of view?
KS: Not in a purely legal view. Aside from everything that has been said here, in an exaggerated way it could be said that this is just a game. It’s a way to pour out feelings, and show to the general public what has happened. But legally, it has no meaning. Something similar was carried out during the Vietnam war. As far as I can understand, this initiative came from activists who want to hold up the idea of human rights, which of course we all support.
YM: So it has no legal value, but could it be said that it is a kind of moral pressure?
KS: Of course. I believe that is the goal of the organizers.
YM: As a legal expert, how do you see the procedure here, such as the make up of the judges’ panel, which is international, while the prosecution team consist of Indonesians?
KS: If this were a real tribunal with is legally binding, it could not go on in just four days. Maybe four months, maybe a year, or more than that.
YM: Like the Yugoslavia Tribunal ?
YM: If you were asked: what would be the best way to solve the aftermath of the 1965 tragedy, what would you answer?
KS: I always hope that the government and institutions we have in Indonesia such as Komnas HAM would be strong enough to solve this according to the law.
YM: What must happen in order for that to happen?
KS: The government institutions must start to make a plan as to how to deal with these events and the people involved in it.
YM: Given the developments within the past few years, is this a realistic hope?
KS: I don’t think so. I am not active in politics, but I’m sure that politics is not easy. I’m happy that I’m not a politician, because it’s very difficult. People often criticize the government, but it’s no easy thing.
YM: What solutions have been sought in a number of countries where similar tragedies have occurred, such as the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and South Africa?
KS: In some parts of the world, undesirable events have occurred, which have led to the set up of international courts. I understand that mechanism as a legal scholar, when the initiative and organization is present. However personally, I’m not a big supporter. But this is not from a legal point of view. I think that the kind of events, such as those which happened in Indonesia, must be resolved in the national sphere, with no international intervention.
YM: You mean it should happen within a country?
YM: What about an apology? Is this very difficult?
KS: This is up to the victims: do they accept it, or do they feel it’s not enough.