BBC World Service
I have a right to...

Mohamad Susilo - Indonesian

Reporter's Story

In deciding which radio programmes I would make, I looked at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I wrote a proposal for 10 programmes, with each one examining a right.

After that, I attended a one-week "I have a right to..." course, organised by the BBC World Service Trust. It gave producers like me an overview on human rights.

I had heard about the human rights abuses, read about them in a newspaper, but through making the programmes I met the victims.

Mugiyanto, a man who was tortured, gave me a detailed description of what had happened to him. Sometimes it comes to my mind and I can see the picture. How he was given an electric shock; how he was beaten and kicked; without clothes, cold and bleeding. The picture stays.

No Trial

One of my programmes is about the following right: No one should be tortured. I met with one man who was a university student in 1998, when President Suharto was still in power. Suharto was planning to win the parliamentary elections for the 7th time. He had been in power for 32 years. Before he was elected, there were massive demonstrations in the big cities, held by students.

The government did not like these protests, so some members of the Special Forces, under Suharto, allegedly kidnapped prominent activists to silence them. In March 1998, 10 activists disappeared. Some were released; some are still missing.

I met Mugiyanto, one of the men, who says he was kidnapped and tortured in the office of the Army. He said he was taken at night, blindfolded. He had short trousers on, nothing more. He was questioned in the army barracks. He says they asked him, "Who was your leader? Why do you oppose the government?"

Every time the questioning ended, the army gave him an electric shock. They beat him but he kept silent. After he was released, there was no trial and the case was closed.

Making a Difference

Mugiyanto is now a legal activist for an NGO in Jakarta. This NGO specialises in missing persons. He says, "I have the right to express my opinion, my political stance. It's a free country."

He travelled to Europe and gave his testimony to several institutions in the Netherlands and in Geneva. At the time, his case was a high profile one because it related to the Special Forces, a very powerful group. The Special Forces was headed by the son-in-law of the president, Mr Prabowo. His men were tried and convicted, between 12 months and three years. Prabowo was fired from the army but did not go to jail.

I met several children in Jakarta, in Sumatra; children who work until midnight. They sing songs in buses and ask passengers for some money. I raise this issue because these children are very vulnerable; they're in danger. They're small, 10-years-old. It's a world of adults. I met a child who was nearly raped by two people. She escaped because she bit their hands.

The children attend school from 8 am to about 2pm. From 2pm until 4, they help their parents. Thenthey work in streets. They find mineral water bottles and sell them. They are poor but want to go to school. They are easy to find because there are so many... When they are tired, they just sleep on the pavement.

Children as Property

When I was in Sumatra, I met two girls, who were kidnapped by criminals and sold. They were 12 and 13 years old. They were told there was a vacancy for waitresses, in a bar. They were forced into prostitution. So, from 8pm until 3 am they worked.

They protested to the owner of the bar but she said, "I own you. You have to do your job; just do it without protest." For several days, these two girls worked. But they managed to escape and met NGO activists from Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province.

The girls told me everything in detail. The owner of the bar said, "Here is your guest. Accompany him. Do everything he wants. They did not use protection.

Making a Difference

The girls received support from their families and from some NGO's, who encouraged them to continue with life after such a terrible experience. Staff from the NGO's help the victims file their cases with the police.

This case has not gone to the courts. The victims are ashamed as are the families. Many times they don't report it. The families sometimes try to keep it a secret. There are some brave girls who tell their story in public and say, "I was kidnapped and forced into prostitution."

Awareness of Rights

I want to give listeners an overview of the problem. They should know that they have rights; that if the army and the police want to question somebody, they have to present a legal letter, saying, "We are law enforcers. I have the right to bring you to a station because we need information."