Decision blamed on legal move by Holland-based pro-Moluccan group to have Yudhoyono arrested.
|Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (L) postponed a visit planned this week to the Netherlands, citing a human rights trial in the host country that might threaten him with arrest [AFP]|
A Dutch court rejected a request by Moluccan activists to have the Indonesian president arrested for alleged human rights violations during an official visit to the Netherlands.
“The requests have been denied,” a spokesman for the Hague said on Wednesday.
Activists for the Moluccan independence movement had filed seven requests against President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The president cancelled his trip on Tuesday, despite guarantees from the Dutch authorities that as a sitting head of state, Dutch law guarantees him immunity.
The activists had attempted a legal challenge on that ban, but the court’s decision was no surprise to Dutch legal experts.
Yudhoyono’s state visit to the Netherlands would have been the first by an Indonesian president for a decade.
Indigenous groups in the Moluccan islands have long demanded the creation of an independent republic.
Historically, the RMS has had a strong base in the Netherlands – many Moluccans emigrated there when Indonesia gained independence, some having served as soldiers in the Dutch army. The Dutch government initially promised their exile would be temporary, and they were settled into temporary refugee camps.
Its members are frequently subjected to torture, arbitrary arrest and extrajudicial killings by Indonesian security forces, human rights organisations say.
The cancellation of the visit was intended to send a message to the Dutch government.
“The message to the Dutch government is don’t fool with the RMS because they are separatists,” Mahfudz Siddiq, a member of Indonesia’s parliament, told Al Jazeera.
Indonesian authorities called on the Dutch government on “keep a watchful eye” on the exiled Maluku separatists.
“It’s not a closure as it only represents one of the cases put forward by the group,” Teuku Faizasyah, presidential spokesperson, said in response to the court’s decision.
He added that the RMS represents a serious threat to Indonesia’ territorial integrity.
The government’s critics, however, saw a different message: that of a human rights abuser.
“By doing this, president Yudhoyono unconsciously builds up an image that is similar to other big human rights abusers in the world,” the director of Kontras, an Indonesian human rights organisation, said.
“The last big case of a leader who was afraid to travel abroad was Omar Bashir of Sudan.”
Few sitting presidents have been arrested under international law, with Slobodan Milosevic being the only exception.
The International Criminal Court, or ICC, might well have issued an arrest warrant this year against Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan, yet for an actual arrest would need to be made by a state that is signatory to the convention.
Because Indonesia refuses to sign the ICC, no such indictment could be made against its leaders, sitting or not.