Indonesia’s likely next president made 4-star general despite links to alleged human rights abuses


JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday awarded an honorary four-star general rank to Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, a former high-ranking army officer who is linked to human rights abuses and who emerged as the apparent winner of the Feb. 14 presidential election.

Widodo gave the honorary promotion to Subianto, 72, in front of high-ranking military and police officials in Jakarta. A four-star general is Indonesia’s second-highest military rank, usually held by the officer who leads the country’s military.

“This award is a form of appreciation as well as confirmation of one’s complete devotion to the people, nation and state,” Widodo said on Wednesday.

Subianto’s vice presidential running mate, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, is Widodo’s son.

Subianto, who is likely to become Indonesia’s next leader, was a lieutenant general and commander of the army special forces, known as Kopassus, that were blamed for human rights abuses including the torture of 22 activists who had opposed Suharto, the authoritarian leader whose 1998 downfall amid massive protests restored democracy in Indonesia.

Human rights groups have claimed that Subianto was also involved in a series of human rights violations in Timor-Leste in the 1980s and 90s, when Indonesia occupied the now-independent nation. Subianto has denied those allegations.

The alleged human rights abuses led to Subianto being forced out of the military and he was dishonorably discharged in 1998.

Subianto and other members of Kopassus were banned from traveling to the U.S. for years over the alleged human rights abuses they committed against the people of Timor-Leste. This ban lasted until 2020, when it was effectively lifted so he could visit the U.S. as Indonesia’s defense minister.

“Giving Subianto an honorary four-star title with his track record in the military, and allegations of involvement in cases of human rights violations, will embarrass the honor and dignity of the Indonesian military,” said Gufron Mabruri, the executive director of the Indonesian rights group Imparsial.

Subianto’s election win is not yet official. Unofficial tallies showed Subianto taking over 55% of the vote against his two rivals in a three-way race. Those counts, conducted by polling agencies and based on millions of ballots sampled from the across the country, have proved accurate in past elections.

If an official count confirms Subianto’s victory, he’ll take office in October.

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