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Indonesia rights panel investigating Suharto-era abuses

[JURIST] A member of the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia [official website] said Tuesday that the commission has launched an investigation into human rights abuses committed during the regime of former Indonesian President Haji Mohammad Suharto [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], telling AP that four separate teams will work until mid-May to gather evidence into killings, kidnappings and other abuses allegedly committed by Suharto's security forces. Ridha Saleh told AP that the time period of the investigations could be extended if necessary. After the commission completes its inquiry, evidence will be turned over to the country's attorney general, who will make the decision whether to file charges. Some observers have suggested that the attorney general could establish a special ad hoc rights court to prosecute those suspected of crimes under Suharto's dictatorial regime, but such a court would have to be approved by the House of Representatives and current Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono [official profile], who served as a military officer under Suharto.

Suharto, who ruled Indonesia from 1967 to 1998, died [JURIST report] in late January. He presided over what is considered to be one of the most brutal dictatorships of the 20th century with as many as one million political opponents killed during his time in power. In recent years, Indonesian prosecutors attempted to bring criminal corruption charges against Suharto, but the case was dropped because Suharto was rendered unable to speak or write [JURIST reports] as a result of several strokes. Prosecutors are still pursuing civil corruption charges [JURIST report] against his estate and are hoping to recover $440 million in diverted state funds and $1.1 billion in damages from Suharto's estate. AP has more.

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